Catholic paradigm shift: 10 years of Pope Francis dismantling the papal court

By Christopher White, 2 October 2023
Pope Francis meets a delegate attending the 6th Global Meeting of the Indigenous Peoples Forum. Image: Vatican Media/Vatican News


When [Pope Francis] first appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica the night of his election, wearing only a simple white cassock and refusing to don the traditional velvet mozzetta, red shoes and gold pectoral cross for the new pope, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, recalled being puzzled.

“It was clear this was not business as usual,” Coleridge told NCR, ahead of Francis’ 10-year anniversary. “And it was anything but show biz. One of the things about Francis is the way he has freed himself from the very powerful protocols of the papal court.”

The changes over the last decade, Coleridge notes, are more than cosmetic. It’s a “dismantling of the papal monarchy” where Catholicism’s global leader is shifting the church from what Coleridge describes as a “hierarchical church to a synodal church” and “from a powerful church to a church that is poor and powerless.”

“The paradigm shift that we’ve seen unfolding in these 10 years has been astonishing,” he added, “and it’s something I never thought I’d see.”

According to Anna Rowlands, a professor of Catholic social thought and practice at Durham University in England, the 10 years of the Francis papacy can be viewed not only as “taking us back to certain key teachings of Vatican II” but as the “embedding of the teaching in the church’s practices.”

“And if we really see the church as the people of God, then what we need to be discerning is what the Spirit is doing amongst the people of God and letting that process speak,” she told NCR.

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With thanks to National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Christopher White, where this article originally appeared.


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