Pope Francis passes a banner referring to eucharistic adoration as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 18. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Francis’ blessing

  • March 19, 2015

Two years ago the demands of office caused a tired Pope Benedict XVI to resign the papacy. He was 85. Now we have Pope Francis, 78, musing about a short pontificate as he begins his third year on the job.

“I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief,” he told a Mexican TV interviewer. “Four or five years. I do not know, or maybe two, three. Well, two have already passed. It’s just a vague feeling.”

We hope the Pope was in one of his playful moods and just having some fun with the reporter. In the same interview, he quipped: “You know how an Argentine commits suicide? He climbs to the top of his ego and jumps!” So perhaps there was some jest in his musings about a brief papacy.

Of the job itself, Francis said he “doesn’t mind” being Pope but he misses the freedom to go out incognito to get a pizza. He called Benedict’s decision to step down courageous, and suggested that someday it may be regarded not as an historical exception, but as a courageous example for future popes.

“An institutional door has been opened,” said Francis.

If so, it’s a door we hope Francis is not tempted to pass through any time soon. Two years into his papacy, it seems Francis’ is just getting started.

He has laid the groundwork to realize a vision of the renewed Church he proposed in the days after his surprise election. But the Church moves slowly; the work has barely begun.

Francis is clear about wanting a Church that is merciful, humble, pastoral and involved in the world. To get there, he has initiated steps to reform Vatican governance. He has travelled as far as Brazil and the Philippines to promote peace and justice, and will soon publish a much-anticipated encyclical on the environment. He has advanced ecumenism and inter-faith relations among religions and convened synods of his own bishops that encourage genuine debate. He has embraced the marginalized on the periphery of society while also reaching out to the traditional family at the heart of the Church. His pontificate has been an example in words and deeds of how to live with humility, compassion and joy.

Being a reformer brings inevitable criticism from defenders of the status quo. The Pope has certainly heard from them, and that is unlikely to change as he pushes his bold agenda forward. Francis sets a pace that would make younger men weary. So it’s understandable for him to wonder how long he can keep it up.

But, with respect, we hope he is wrong about this vague feeling of his. His pontificate has been a blessing for the Church that we pray will continue for many more years to come.

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