19 December 2018, The Tablet

View from Rome

View from Rome

The past 12 months will go down as the most testing year yet for the Francis papacy, with the Pope forced to navigate the barque of Peter through a perfect storm of clerical sexual abuse scandals and opposition to his pontificate. But in the face of unprecedented turbulence and rough weather the Pope ends the year more resolved than ever not to seek safe harbours but to stick to his course.

Francis, who on Monday celebrated his 82nd birthday, shows no signs of slowing down – on the contrary, he keeps up a jam-packed diary of appointments, pastoral engagements, and travel. While Benedict XVI opened up the possibility of papal resignations, this looks like a highly unlikely scenario for Francis. For one thing, the Pope Emeritus, 91, is still alive. Perhaps more significantly, there is much that Francis is determined still to do. And, as one his closest collaborators told me, “I think he enjoys being Pope.”

Nevertheless, the clerical abuse crises have taken their toll in 2018, as have the attempts by his opponents to use the scandals to indict his pontificate. There are signs that he is taking a firmer grip on the abuse crisis and in responding to the waves of a scandal that are lapping at the Church’s hierarchy. If the beginning of 2018 saw Francis admitting to “grave mistakes” in his handling of the abuse crisis, early in 2019 he will host a summit of bishops in the Vatican to find a co-ordinated and global response. Strong action is needed.

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