17 January 2019, The Tablet

View from Rome


View from Rome
 

Aware that, aged 82, time is not on his side, the pace of activity in this pontificate has ratcheted up several notches recently, as Pope Francis fast approaches the six-year mark of his papacy. A reorganised Vatican communications team is trying to get on the front foot by increasing its output of statements and editorials, while the Pope has confirmed he will go to Romania from 31 May to 2 June, the fifth foreign trip of 2019. There are likely to be at least two more, which will make the next 12 months his busiest yet for foreign travel. It kicks off on Wednesday, when he leaves for Panama to celebrate World Youth Day, followed five days later by a trip to the United Arab Emirates.

All these visits underline Francis’ missionary approach to spreading the Gospel far and wide, including to places outside the traditional heartlands of Catholicism. It’s a sign of the growing de-Europeanisation of the Church. It also shows the Pope’s willingness to take on a role on the world stage as a passionate defender of the post-war consensus on multilateral cooperation. His speech to diplomats to the Holy See earlier this month, with its stark warning of the dangers of the rising tide of nationalism and populism, was a reminder that his concern is for the world as well as the Church.

“It showed a remarkable degree of overlap in terms of the basis in which a good foreign policy ought to rest between the Holy See and the federal government,” the German Ambassador to the Vatican, Michael Koch, told me afterwards.

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