Pope Francis, 86 years old, will mark this March 13 a decade of pontificate. From reforms to diplomacy, passing through the fight against pedocriminality, these are the broad outlines of his actions as leader of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis has endeavored to implement a profound reform of the Roman Curia — the central government of the Holy See — to make it more attentive to the local churches.
The Argentine pontiff has wanted to decentralize the body and give more space to the laity and women. These reforms, sometimes criticized internally, were concretized with the entry into force in 2022 of a new Constitution, which reorganizes the dicasteries (ministries) and prioritizes evangelization.
Francis also revamped the Vatican’s murky sector of finances, shrouded in scandal, with the creation in 2014 of a Secretariat for the Economy, as well as the implementation of an investment framework and anti-corruption measures. He also ordered the realignment of the Vatican Bank, with the closure of 5,000 accounts.
These changes were impacted by the covid-19 pandemic and the shake-up of the Becciu case, a leading Italian cardinal on trial for an opaque real estate acquisition by the Holy See.
Fight against pedo-criminality
The multiplication of sex scandals in the Church, from Ireland to Germany to the United States, has been one of the most painful challenges for the Argentine pope.
After the failures of an international commission of experts created in 2014 and a controversial trip to Chile in 2018 that ended in a series of resounding resignations and exclusions, Francis publicly apologized for wrongly defending a bishop. He has also multiplied his apologies to victims.
In 2019, he defrocked U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, convicted of sexual assaults on minors. This was a strong gesture on his promise of “zero tolerance” towards this type of actions.
The pontiff also created a consultative commission for the protection of minors, which eventually became part of the curia.
An unprecedented Vatican summit on the protection of minors in 2019 resulted in a series of measures: abolition of pontifical secrecy on clerical sexual abuse offenses, obligation for religious to report any case to their hierarchy, listening platforms in dioceses around the world…. But the secrecy of confession remains unbreakable.
Diplomacy and “peripheries
In his 40 trips abroad, Jorge Bergoglio has wanted to give more importance to the “peripheries” and has preferred the marginalized countries of Eastern Europe or Africa to the Western Catholic fiefdoms.
The pope defended multilateralism and unceasingly denounced the arms trade. And he has also opted for dialogue with all faiths, especially Islam, as reflected in a historic visit to Iraq in 2021.
During his pontificate he also reached an unprecedented agreement with the Communist regime in Beijing in 2018 on the thorny issue of the appointment of bishops in China.
The Holy See’s diplomacy also worked for the historic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States in 2014. But it hit the wall of war in Ukraine, where the Argentine pope’s numerous appeals for peace have had no effect.
This conflict also buried rapprochement with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, Moscow’s supporter, despite a historic meeting with Francis in 2016, the first between the leaders of the Eastern and Western Churches since the schism of 1054.
Migration and the environment
On the Italian island of Lampedusa, a symbol of migrant shipwrecks, or in the Greek camp of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea, the pontiff — himself originally from a family of Italian migrants who arrived in Argentina — has staunchly defended people fleeing war or misery and called for a welcome regardless of their background, particularly in Europe.
With his encyclical “Laudato Si” (2015) he called for a “green revolution” and criticized the “irresponsible use of the goods God has placed” on Earth.
Francis, who supports the Paris Agreement, has reiterated his commitment to “integral ecology.”