Cardinal McElroy on how Pope Francis has changed the church

By Gerard O’Connell, 16 March 2023
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, California, United States, is presented with his biretta, cardinalatial ring and assignation of the title or deaconry by Pope Francis during the Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals and for the vote on some Causes of Canonization in St. Peter's Basilica. Image: Vatican News/YouTube


“In Pope Francis’ pontificate, the global south is present in a radically new and prominent way in the life of the church,” Cardinal Robert W. McElroy told Gerard O’Connell, America’s Vatican correspondent, in an exclusive hourlong interview via Zoom on March 4. “There has been a fundamental shift in perspective, of cultures, and sometimes of priorities, within the life of the church.”

Cardinal McElroy reflects on the first 10 years of Francis’ leadership of the Catholic Church, shares his impressions of the Argentine pope as a person and the changes he has ushered for the papacy, the Roman Curia and the universal church over the past decade. The cardinal also offers three reasons why, he believes, Pope Francis has encountered strong opposition, especially from some of the U.S. bishops.

Gerard O’Connell: Francis has been pope for 10 years. You have met with him several times. What is it that strikes you most about him as a person?

Cardinal McElroy: As a person what strikes me whenever I am with him is his level of direct engagement; that is, his sense of immediacy, of really honing in on the person he is talking to. I feel a link to him; he wants to listen, he wants to hear, he wants to say things to me, too.

He is clearly rooted in the Spirit—that is behind everything he is doing and the comments he makes—and also a sense that the Spirit is calling him to a particular mission at this time. Mother Teresa had that same sense of holiness, of the Spirit of God with her. She had a mission she thought that God had given her, and she knew that and was trying to do that. I feel that same thing with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is a hope-filled man. Sometimes people criticize him for this, saying he is too hopeful about human nature, the world, or about where the church can be. It is important to distinguish in the Christian sense between hope and optimism. Optimism is merely the belief that everything comes out right. Christian hope is the belief that even in hard times God is at our side and will find a way to help us get through.

To continue reading this interview, click here.

Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent and author of The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Story of the Conclave That Changed History. He has been covering the Vatican since 1985.

With thanks to America, where this article originally appeared.


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