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2013: looking back at the "Pope Francis effect"


(Vatican Radio) 2013 was a remarkable year for the Vatican, beginning with the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict, which was followed by the election of Francis, the first Pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit one. Since then, the new Pope has won fans among Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his simplicity, his sincerity and his message of mercy and inclusiveness. The impact of his papal ministry has been dubbed “the Francis effect” with polls showing that the Pope is one of the most popular figures on the planet and the most talked-about name on the Internet. Monsignor John Kennedy is an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and together with Susy Hodges he reviews the past year in the Vatican.

Listen to the full interview with Monsignor Kennedy: RealAudioMP3

Monsignor Kennedy agrees that 2013 was a fascinating year in the Vatican and pays tribute to Pope Francis’ ability to “preach the gospel in a new and a very exciting way.” As a result of this, he points to how figures show that the new Pope has helped persuade a lot of Catholics to return to the Church and the celebration of the Sacraments. “He has made a lot of people return to their faith in a new way… there’s a lot more people present at Mass.”

Monsignor Kennedy goes on to describe Pope Francis as “a great leader who seems to be one of us, who’s inviting us to be like him as we strive to follow the gospel more radically and more freely and in a more generous way.”

When asked what he sees as the highlights of the Pope’s words and deeds during 2013, Monsignor Kennedy singles out the “recurring theme of reconciliation” preached by Francis during his many homilies and audiences. He also mentions the Pope’s stated intention of wanting to reform the Church and the Roman Curia, making it “more open, more accountable.”

But has Pope Francis aroused too many unrealistic expectations among the faithful and can they ever be fulfilled? Monsignor Kennedy expresses “optimism” on that score, especially because as he says, “the Pope is a realistic man.” “Pope Francis is setting a new tone now, a fresh standard for people and that’s the standard by which future Popes are going to be measured.” “He is changing lives in an internal and external way.”

Finally, just as Pope Francis “gave us one surprise after another” in 2013, Kennedy predicts there will be plenty more surprises in the coming year: “There will be more courageous gestures, more of his “free-styling”, more of his reaching out.”