While Fr Flannery said it was too early to say whether Pope Francis would prove the most radical reformer of the modern Church, he was going about things the right way.
“He has been criticised for not making headway on issues like married priests and the ordination of women, but I think he is right. He is moving to change the Church’s structures, starting with the Vatican Bank, and I think he is right in doing that.
“While changes made by Pope John XXIII and Vatican II made great strides, they did not tackle the structures which meant that when the bishops went home after the Council, the power structures within the Vatican reasserted themselves. Pope Francis is very politically astute and knows that in order to secure real and lasting reform you have to change the structures.”
Fr Flannery added he was worried the Pope, despite his good intentions, may not be able to make the changes he wants.
“I have no doubt Pope Francis is a real reformer. I agree that he is very radical but there is still a big question about whether he will be able to make his reforms stick.
“He is really up against the forces of opposition, particularly among the Curia.
“He also faces opposition outside the Vatican. There is, for instance, a strong traditionalist movement emerging in the United States and it has enormous money behind it and are determined to oppose him. So Pope Francis has his work cut out. He is 78, but appears to be very clear-sighted and sure of what he wants.”
Fr Flannery, who rejected the Vatican’s attempts to silence him last year for leading Church reform efforts in Ireland, later addressed the Kinsale Peace Project on a range of topics, including allowing priests to marry and on women being ordained.