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November 26th, 2013
10:21 AM ET

Pope Francis: No more business as usual

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - Pope Francis on Tuesday called for big changes in the Roman Catholic Church - including at the very top  saying the church needs to rethink rules and customs that are no longer widely understood or effective for evangelizing.

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," the Pope said in a major new statement.

"I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures," Francis added.

The Pope's address, called an "apostolic exhortation," is part mission statement, part pep talk for the world's 1.5 billion Catholics. Francis' bold language and sweeping call for change are likely to surprise even those who've grown accustomed to his unconventional papacy.

"Not everyone will like this document," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author in New York. "For it poses a fierce challenge to the status quo."

And it's not just a verbal challenge, the Pope said on Tuesday.

"I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences."

Since his election in March, Pope Francis, the first pontiff to hail from Latin America, has made headlines by decrying the iniquities of modern capitalism, embracing the poor and people with disabilities and reaching out to gays and lesbians.

At the same time, the 77-year-old pontiff has sought to to awaken a spirit of joy and compassion in the church, scolding Catholic "sourpusses" who hunt down rule-breakers and calling out a "tomb psychology" that "slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum."

"An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!" the Pope said.

Officially known in Latin as "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), the 85-page statement released on Tuesday is the first official document written entirely by Pope Francis. (An earlier document was co-written by Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.)

Although Francis sprinkles the statement with citations of previous popes and Catholic luminaries like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, the new pontiff makes a bold call for the church to rethink even long-held traditions.

"In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated," the Pope said.

"Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives."

Such statements mark a sharp break from Benedict XVI, a more tradition-bound pope who focused on cleaning up cobwebs of unorthodoxy in the church.

By contrast, in "Evangelii" Francis repeats his calls for Catholics to stop "obsessing" about culture war issues and to focus more on spreading the Gospel, especially to the poor and marginalized.

READ MORE: The Pope’s bold new vision

The outside world, particularly its economic inequalities, didn't escape Francis' notice either.

In a section of "Evangelii" entitled "some challenges to today's world," he sharply criticized what he called an "idolatry of money" and "the inequality that spawns violence."

The Pope also blasted "trickle-down economics," saying the theory "expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

“Meanwhile,” Francis said, “the excluded are still waiting.”

But the bulk of Francis' statement addresses the church, which, he said, should not be afraid to "get its shoes soiled by the mud of the street."

The Pope also hinted that he wants to see an end to the so-called "wafer wars," in which Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are denied Holy Communion. His comments could also be taken as another sign that he plans to reform church rules that prevent divorced Catholics from receiving the Eucharist.

"Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason," Francis said.

"The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."

Even so, Francis reiterated the church's stand against abortion, defending it against critics who call such arguments "ideological, obscurantist and conservative."

"Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question," Francis said.

The Pope also reiterated previous rejections on ordaining women, saying the topic is "not open for discussion."

But that doesn't mean the church values men more than women, he said.

"We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church," the Pope said.

Francis also said he expects other parts of the church to change, and called on Catholics to be unafraid of trying new things.

"More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving."

Francis didn't mention specific reforms, but he suggested that it could include changes at the very top of the church.

"Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy," he said.

READ MORE: Pope Francis: Church can't 'interfere' with gays

The church's centralization, where all roads lead to Rome, and the "we've always done it this way" type of thinking have hindered Catholics' ability to minister to local people in far-flung places, Francis suggested.

"I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities," the Pope said.

Martin, the Jesuit priest and author, said he could not recall ever "reading a papal document that was so thought-provoking, surprising and invigorating."

"The document’s main message is that Catholics should be unafraid of new ways of proclaiming the Gospel and new ways of thinking about the church."

MORE ON CNN:

The disfigured man in popular photos talks about the Pope's embrace 

Opinion – the Pope’s revolutionary message 

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Pope Francis

soundoff (2,437 Responses)
  1. Ashley

    Oohhh I love it, where has he been all my life 🙂

    November 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  2. children of Israel

    The only true living God is I AM THAT I AM AHAYAH the God of the Hebrew Israelites. And the Son of the living God is Christ YASHAYA / YASHIYA (Proverbs 30:4) America claims in god we trust on it's money? The one eye pyramid (Acts 17:30) – St. Matthew 22:20-21

    November 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  3. AdmiringFrancis

    Now this is a voice that is congruent with the Gospel....Jesus' Law of Love.
    Whatever happens to, or through this person, the Word is alive in the Vatican....as if the Shekinah once again is lit.
    Bless this Pope and his vision.A Catholic Pontiff who understands 1st Corinthians, and tells it like it is.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  4. cd

    this guy is good. i left the catholic church awhile ago because i got tired of them preaching hate. it seems many religions do that now. this guy is preaching love. i hope they explore birth control for women and i hope they allow priests to marry.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • JB

      I don't ever see Priests being allowed to marry. Marriage and the Priesthood are separate vocations. A Priest is married to the Church. A married person is called to devote themselves to their spouse and family, a Priest to the Church. In some ways it just comes down to enough time in the day.

      That said I am very happy like you said to see the Pope preach love again, not hate.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  5. PEPTALK

    Have a great day on fighting who is right here.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Topher

      No fighting necessary. I know who's right.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
      • WASP

        YUP I DO. 😄

        November 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  6. Brad

    "At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives."

    Never thought I'd see the day when a pope showed such common sense.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
  7. Sid Airfoil

    Capitalism is about self interest. Christianity is about self sacrifice. I wonder when Republicans in the U.S. will recognize the contradiction.

    Sid

    November 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  8. jeri lynn williams

    I am pleased the Pontiff joins the Light of Love with the Light of Faith. Joined they bring gifts beyond measure. Peace, love, hope and charity be with us all.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • WASP

      no offense you sound like those creepy brain-washing aliens in the movies. 😄

      "we bring peace,love etc etc etc"....................now i eat your brains! 😄

      sorry i watched tooo much "V"

      November 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • boiler84

      Go Pope! Go Pope! Go Francis! Go Pope!

      November 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  9. Cherry Coke

    Doesn't the Catholic church have a tremendous amount of assets? I heard Cash for Gold is pretty reputable.

    Also if he were truly following Christ he would know Jesus rejected governments of the world and ran when the people tried to make him king. He would not endorse praying for politicians to get involved in religion. What does that tell you?

    November 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  10. myrtlemaylee

    "The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."

    I can't find adequate words to describe what this sentence alone means to me. The heart of the church that I once loved so dearly & a reminder of the days when I went to Mass at least 6 days per week. The comfort of the sacrament, what it meant to me. Or how deeply it hurt me when my Presbyterian husband attended Mass w/me & our son & could not receive "Catholic" Communion, although the Presbyterians never rejected me.

    Mark 2 16-17: And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, “How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?”

    17 When Jesus heard it, He said unto them, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

    This Pope is a gift to a very sick church.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • ooo

      6 days a week!!! Wow. But doesn't the repet.ition get to you? Once a week when I was a kid was too much. Especially because I always missed kickoff on Sundays 🙂

      November 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • thom

      The six days a week part is easy...you went to a Catholic school; time was when mass was part of every school day...Dominican grade school, Jesuit High school. Myrtle, I think the answer to your question is easy. The bible simply says: "Do this in memory of me." Period. No mention of Pope, or which man-made religious organization is serving up the body and blood. Simply, "Do this in memory of me."

      November 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  11. Jackson

    John Paul The First tried this, and "died" after a month or two.

    Coincidence?

    Francis better watch his back and hire a food taster.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  12. chrism

    I love the pope. I am sure nearly all catholics, including me, agree with him. Most catholics that I know do many good works. But there are certainly concerns wherever money is misused. Even so I believe there are some misconceptions. There should be churches – but perhaps we can do with less expensive facilities. More humble churches and more money to feed the poor. The part I think is the most questionable is exactly what he means by obsession with culture wars. I don't think most catholics set out to do this. We are told all issues are important. I personally will feel a bit confused and misled if suddenly now we are told the church is changing its position on social issues. Some issues truly have been in the news nearly every day. The political drive to bestow marriage rights differently than it has always been I do not think catholics should have ignored. I think most said their peace and moved on. Indeed, moved on to trying to help others.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  13. Ed - Spring, TX

    Saving souls? More like saving the priesthood. Follow the money. At least this Pope understands the reality. Let the divorced people and gays back into the fold the you've opened up the base of potential contributors significantly.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • huskiemom

      The divorced, gays, etc. have always been welcomed into the Catholic Church. Where do you get your information because you are so wrong!

      November 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Sure, they're welcome in the church.
        So long as they admit that they're inherently evil and remain forever celibate, denying themselves the basic human necessity of physical companionship.

        November 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
      • Ed - Spring, TX

        Divorced, remarried, no annulment from Rome, no communion. Sounds welcoming to me.

        It sounds more like Rome needs to get these people back to Church to become paying members again.

        November 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Darren

      As much as I understand your cynicism Ed, I think this Pope actually does have the bigger picture in mind. Not being catholic but living with a best friend who was and attending mass with him, I have witnessed both saides of Catholocism. From well intnetnioned (although gay) priests who have to hide their reality from their own subjects, to angry priests who carry a level of animosity towards their subjects, I've witnessed it all. Good people are good despite gender race, creed, religion, etc.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • Ed - Spring, TX

        The bigger picture is to increase revenue. It's drastically falling with people leaving the Church in droves.

        November 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  14. Johnny Triumph

    If he's God's mouthpiece on Earth then why doesn't he stop hinting at things and get to work?

    November 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      He has been making real changes – just read. A fair bit has been changed, and yeah, he is giving guidance before he makes change, but that doesn't mean the change hasn't been happening.

      A peodphile priest was reported to the Vatican, a few months ago – and they reported him to the police and are cooperating. That NEVER happened before.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  15. mike

    If I weren't an atheist, I could really get behind this guy. I think he might be the first actual christian in charge of the church. Perhaps he will be the one to clean up the RCC's distasteful reputation and rid it of the demons that control it.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • thom

      Maybe the first pope in your lifetime, or historical memory. In actuality, there have been quite a few good ones. And quite a few horrible ones. The church, after all, is 2000 years old. A lot of time for rogues and saints alike.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  16. The Greatest Commandment Matthew 22:37

    If God made time as well as matter and space, then God would be incomprehensible. The Big Bang Theory defines God as nothing or without mass that formed out of emptiness and created something. God would be everything and opposites would not exist. If God is incomprehensible at his core, then miracles would be impossible, since they represent an opposite of what is expected. Are miracles more important than truth? Do miracles disprove truth or support truth? God is often described with miracles, such as the miracle of Adam being created from dust, the miracle of Moses parting the red sea, and the miracle of Jesus rising from the dead. Does God care more about miracles than truth? Matthew 12:38-39 states that truth is more important than miracles, since lies are opposite of truth. If you ignore the truth, then you support lies. Miracles are meant to provide evidence for the truth, which means that truth and lies are opposite. A miracle represents an opposite of the expected outcome.

    http://www.colossians115.org/ Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

    Jesus was not an oxymoron, insane or crazy, thus neither is God.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  17. Tim

    I do not believe that all who did not know Christ or believe he was the savior are going to hell. I believe that what Christ meant when he said that no one shall come to the father except through him is that he will be the ultimate judge of whom he will send to the Lord. While I agree that no person can earn their way into heaven, I believe that the underlying theme should be how we live our lives. If at the end of someones life, Christ can look at them and say "This was a good person. They did all they could to help others and live an honest life." , I think those people will be going to heaven, because Christ will judge them worthy whether or not they truly are.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • follow the money

      Exactly. Natural law. How we treat others and live our lives.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      When you die that's really about it, Tim. Try to leave people with good memories of you.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • PEPTALK

      Isaiah 64:6 How then can we be saved?
      All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags

      If you read above God sees our good deeds as acts of filthy rags.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • truth

      H

      November 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Javier

      Read John 3:16 it says that whosoever believes in Jesus will not perish (go to hell eternaly) but will have eternal. The bible also states he who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life. If we could get to heaven by good works then Christ would have never died on the cross. We are saved through faith by grace and not by good works. Good works in the context of christians life show his love for God but has nothing to do with attaining salvation for we are saved by faith. Good works by unbelievers though something admirable can not get that person into heaven or avoid hell but only if they repent of their sins and turn to recieve Gods son as Lord and savior. In conclusion is paid and purchased it just needs to be recieved. Amen.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Javier

      Read John 3:16 it says that whosoever believes in Jesus will not perish (go to hell eternaly) but will have eternal life. The bible also states he who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life. If we could get to heaven by good works then Christ would have never died on the cross. We are saved through faith by grace and not by good works. Good works in the context of christians life show his love for God but has nothing to do with attaining salvation for we are saved by faith. Good works by unbelievers though something admirable can not get that person into heaven or avoid hell but only if they repent of their sins and turn to recieve Gods son as Lord and savior. In conclusion salvation a sinners ticket out of hell is paid for and they only have to recieve Christs gift and be saved Amen.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  18. Evidence for Early Protestant Behaviour

    When threatened by the sham leopard, the male Lutherans formed a line along the river bank. Repeatedly they would touch their knuckles to each other's lips to reassure themselves that all the Lutherans were standing firm. The alpha Lutheran would repeatedly approach the leopard with a large stick and make aggressive noises, possibly to enhance its status in the group. The encounter ended when the alpha Lutheran attacked the leopard and discovered it was a sham. Eventually the group broke up into factions disagreeing over what colour the sanctuary carpet should be.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  19. ljjm

    God bless and protect Pope Francis I.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  20. Francisco

    I like how this Pope is not afraid of showing the corruption in this church. We have other popes or priests or cardinals hiding secrets from the catholic church so it does not lose it's image. Yet this pope is clearly telling us how dirty and corrupt this church is and that God is not a part of it at all. Why is God a part of a church where it hides and protects child molesters and that it secretly works with the Italian mafia. This Church is far from God. Yet this pope is saying that it needs to be fixed, and that it will get messy, but it needs to get done regardless.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.