This week may prove to be the most crucial and toughest for the still relatively new global leader of the world’s more than one billion Catholics.
Pope Francis, a proud Argentinean, could make moves this week revealing his vision for the rest of his papacy, which is still just barely months old. He has called all cardinals to Rome for a meeting ahead of Saturday’s ceremony that will formally install 19 new “princes of the church.”
It’s the first gathering of his just-named top lieutenants from across the globe, including various from Latin America, who will join the ranks of those already in place who will one day elect the next pope. ; ; ;
On Thursday, the cardinals began a two day discussion on family values, taking on some of the thorniest issues facing the church: Marriage, divorce, contraception and homosexuality.
While the pope has become popular with a more liberal base, his opening statement reflects his more orthodox beliefs, telling the cardinals: “Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life.” ;
He went on to say, ;”From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.”
Francis and all the cardinals know that they’re swimming against the tide of popular culture when it comes to traditional family issues.
Michael Coren, author of The Future of Catholicism, said even within the Catholic world, there are deep divisions. “You have the vast majority of Roman Catholics including faithful Catholics, who don’t accept church teaching on sexuality and life issues.”
This meeting on the family is a prelude to a much bigger meeting in the fall on the same topic.
Meanwhile, the new cardinals, who will be officially installed on Saturday, will bring the number of voting age cardinals back to 120. But their nationalities also show the direction Francis is moving the church. They represent a future with much more focus on the poor and developing regions. There are no Americans in the group, ;while more than a third hail from Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa.
“There’s been a geographical re-emphasis… So what the pope has said is, Europe may be the traditional heartland of the Church but the growth today is Africa, Asia and Latin America,” Coren said.
But while Francis looks ahead, he hasn’t let go of the past. Among the new cardinals is Archbishop Gerhard Mueller of Germany, who holds the very powerful position of Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, and reaffirmed last year by Pope Francis. He is said to be the bridge between the two papacies.
While new cardinals are the future, Francis still must fix the issues of the past, including lingering sexual abuse scandals. And so earlier this week he met with what’s called the “G-8,” the Group of Eight cardinals which now act as his closest advisors. ;
They’re tasked with cleaning up the mess in the Vatican Bank and church finances.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel’s (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996.