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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. Donkey T Dong

    Is this the same Pope who put St. Peter's bones on display for the first time EVER, this past weekend?

    November 26, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • doobzz

      The souvenir shops must have made a fortune. Smart guy.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  2. Vinod

    The center of catholic life should be our fellow human beings, the poor, the disadvantaged, the minority and the oppressed. The Pope's statements looks good, just praying to God that change takes place without any problems.

    November 26, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Name*susa

      Stop being a hippie cause the world does not and will never work that way

      November 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  3. JustObvious

    There once was a council that met in Nicaea
    They argued alot but finally agreed a
    Man, Jesus Christ
    was Divine, not just nice
    and we should stand when we pray

    November 26, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  4. Twist

    May I suggest, Mr. Pope, that you begin by firing the hateful U.S. Bishops?

    November 26, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • OwMySkull

      Start with Olmstead in Phoenix.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Beware if the Church

      You all need to understand that this is a Jesuit Pope and they do not come any darker. Yes even darker than Ratzinger himself. So all this is just for show and deception. The Church knows it is on its way out and its trying hard to remain relevant. Do not be fooled by the nice old man image. This one is the darkest yet.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • tomorrow's church

        Jesuits are known as "defenders of the faith", not "defenders of the church". Take a theology class under a Jesuit and be surprised.

        November 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
        • Abused

          It was jesuits who so-dom-ized me. One is a bishop today

          November 26, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Chicago

      And the one in Springfiled Illinois who performed an exorcism when gay marriage was passed.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Enlightened

      Hateful Bishops are not confined to US. Bishop Henry in Calgary, Alberta is right up there with the rest.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  5. B

    This appears to be the Pope many of us prayed for….a real life, walking, talking answer to a sincere prayer to God.

    November 26, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Kittyg

      I'd be impressed if he had suggested the Catholic church would open its' vast coffers to benefit the poor and needy in the world!

      November 26, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  6. lolz

    the pop is too liberal for congresional republicans..

    November 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  7. CatusBob

    Long over due. Amen! Thank God for the Jesuits. He is swinging open the doors and flinging open the windows. How the Holy Spirit can come in and bring the winds of pastoral care.

    November 26, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Abused

      It was jesuits who abused me in New York State. Syracuse diocese.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
      • TC

        So sorry to hear that. Remember it was those speciifc individuals that abused you and not whole church or the entire Society of Jesus.

        November 26, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
        • Abused

          The cover ups did far more damage than the abuse itself. The damage? Chilcren left to cope alone are at the greatest risk to mental illness and suicide (one of those who abused me abused another, that child committed suicide)

          Enable the pedo to continue damaging more children.

          It was the popes down which enabled the worst damage, not the individuals who abused.

          November 26, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
        • John

          Yes, they just stood by and let it happen and turned away claimed the same innocence you try to project now.

          November 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
        • Abused

          I live by the truth. It's too important. Wish this vatican did too.

          November 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • Beware of the Church

        I bet those that did the deed are still in the Church if alive. And none are in jail for it. God Damned Catholic Church!

        November 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Beware of the Church

      Don't get too happy about this pope. The Jesuits are running the satanist branch of the Catholic Church.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  8. anony

    While this pope is the best one in fifty years, and he certainly has the right ideas and the purest intentions, the rest of the bishops aren't going to let him change much of the Catholic Church. It would ruin their business model.

    November 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • TC

      Don;t be so sure. Watch one of the subordinates buck his direction and then Pope Francis summarily remove them. He knows how to be a leader and enforce change. He's not playing around with lazy people.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Beware of the Church

      With all that smoke it looks like the pope is burning up or bringing out the sulfur from hell.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  9. Will

    I am not Catholic. I have never attended a single Mass in my 60 years of life and I have always been completely turned off to the gaudy pageantry and wealth of the Catholic church. I am equally put-off by the rituals and liturgies of many protestant denominations as well. But this Pope just plain gets it. He understands the phrase: "This people worships me with their lips but their hearts are far from me." He is in love with the vulnerable rather than the trappings of wealth. But I also have to give credit to the Cardinals who elected him. In order to see the deep spirituality of this Pope, they must have had some depth as well. It's time for another Reformation. I am praying for you Francis.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  10. indecenyofindigence

    The Pope makes puns!

    "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."

    November 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • JHT

      This stood out to me too .What's up with the people attacking this guy? Who has he attacked? It seems to me that he's worried about his own flock, and trying to reach like minded people. He's no threat to the rest of us. It seems like we can finally live in peace with the right if only they can conduct themselves with the grace they claim to strive for, like this remarkable Pope has demonstrated. He's not self righteous, and I think that's what is really bothering our conservatives. They can't be hateful, with this kind of reverent person setting the example. He exposes our conservatives and show what naked hypocrites they truly are. He shames our conservatives with his tolerance and refreshing not holier than thou presence. I really applaud him, and wish him peace and much success in his peaceful quest. I'm not threatened by religion, as long as they agree to keep it in their house. Don't try to bring that over to my house.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  11. iReason

    The truth is that the catholic church has been losing members for a very long time. That means losing income; losing the ability to maintain their very expensive properties, which are often located in areas losing value. Their schools have lost ground with high schools closing. So, this pope is a marketing man who knows that the old ways aren't producing any longer. Time for a change. Get out on the street and recruit. Put out some good PR instead of the pedophilia driven news of the last decade or more.

    Practical is this pope.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  12. Richard Wilson

    In 2010 I copy righted a book that predicted this pope. I wrote about a South American pope that hates the pomp and riches of the Vatican and went on to turn the church on its collective ears. Go to Amazon kindle and read "All by God's Design" I also predicted an island popping out of the Indian Ocean after an earthquake which happened two months ago. My book uses the NSA listening in on phone conversations as a part of the plot. Even little details like this pope using a different wafer during the mass was predicted. I think my story is what God wants to be told.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • asdrel

      Way to use the article as a means for self-promotion.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  13. Crosswinds

    Acts 26:22-28.....

    22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

    24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”

    25 But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26 For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”

    28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

    November 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  14. W. McClendon

    The more I read and hear about this Pope, I love him even more. I know nothing with the Church (or any church) is without controversy, but his common sense and decency and attacking some issues head-on makes me very excited for the Catholic Church.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Alias

      +1

      November 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    It's pretty simple. If Jesus wouldn't do it....then you shouldn't. No Cadillacs, no fancy apartments, expensive clothes, expensive vacations, lavish jewelry. If you're in the priesthood you're committed to serve God and Mankind...not yourselves. It's not that tough...although looking at the Catholic Church you would think it was.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  16. Patty

    I think if all the women picked up their purses and walked out they may think again about the role of women in the Church.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Alias

      Really?
      and what religion are you going to convert to? Islam??

      November 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
      • Jillicentix

        who says we need ANY religion? Quitting one drug doesn't mean you have to take up another.

        November 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • marvin

      be patient, patty. change comes slowly. our new pope brings hope for us more progressive thinkers. remain in the church and change it from within.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • Alias

        Good point. Look at how far they have come in just the last 2,000 years.

        November 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • Abused

        reacting to doing what is RIGHT when children were abused,, slowly is OK!!! Not by any good parents view

        November 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  17. Mercury

    Holy Papination, Altar Boy!

    I just loved what the Pope had to say about "the new tyranny of unbridled capitalism" - and I'm not even Catholic!

    November 26, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • SS

      "But," Pope Francis continued, "there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the 'tyranny of relativism,' which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. "

      November 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Realist

      ...vatican is upset. They wanted a one world bank which they ran

      November 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  18. Garrett from Texas

    "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." – Pope Francis (from the article)

    As a former Catholic, I find that statement remarkably powerful.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • DobJ

      Me too. Me too.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • TC

      Yep that's a big statement since we are required to not be in a state of mortal sin. It will be interesting where he goes with this.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  19. Maria

    This is a very inspiring look into our new Pope's thinking and what his vision is for Catholics and our Church. Pope Francis is inspiring and I am very excited to hear more from our Pope!!!!

    November 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Realist

      yes,, and deny the small children abused. let's see what happens to abused children who are left to cope alone:

      Between 20-50% of abused children will have some degree of permanent disability as a result of abuse (NASMHPD/NTAC)

      People who experienced considerable trauma during their childhood died 20 years prematurely, CDC researchers have found.

      Females abused in childhood are at greater risk of suicidal and self-mutilating behavior (Herman, 1992).

      Seventy percent of women who are homeless were abused as children. Nearly 90 percent of women who are both homeless and have a mental illness experienced abuse both as children and adults.

      Recent studies have shown that victims of childhood abuse actually experience physical changes to the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory, as well as in the handling of stress. (Bremner JD, Narayan M)

      The study states as many as 80 percent of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21. These young adults exhibited many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts (Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia, 1996).

      Oh, that doesn't matter. Deny them again!!! Way to go pope

      November 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Realist

      yes,, and deny the small children abused. let's see what happens to abused children who are left to cope alone:

      Recent studies have shown that victims of childhood abuse actually experience physical changes to the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory, as well as in the handling of stress. (Bremner JD, Narayan M)

      The study states as many as 80 percent of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21. These young adults exhibited many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts (Silverman, Reinherz, & Giaconia, 1996).

      Oh, that doesn't matter. Deny them again!!! Way to go pope

      November 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
  20. Joseph

    Lots of words, no specifics. What are you changing? Were all the previous Popes wrong? What about papal infalibility? Are you saying that it really isn't true?

    Here are the facts. Even the Apostles were falible except for when they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write sacred scripture. Just the fact that this Pope is using all these words without really saying anything sounds to me like he's setting us up for monkey business with the sacred truths of God's word. And if he does, he will make himself to be a false prophet and a lair, Pope or no Pope.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Colin

      Slight flaw in yout theory. We have no evidence that any of the 4 gospels were written by Apostles.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
      • Garrett from Texas

        Actually we have quite a lot of evidence that they specifically were written NOT by the apostles for which they are named. However, that doesn't mean that they were not conveyed effectively to the writers through oral traditional means.

        Even the Book of Moses (which is actually multiple texts) are oral traditional tales passed down for generations prior to being written.

        November 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
      • Alias

        Slight flaw?
        You are being generous today

        November 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
      • devin

        What I find most intriguing, is the tenacity with which you broadcast your fallacious, liberal interpretation of the biblical text.

        November 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Angela

      I wish you held your politics and politicans to the same standard of wanting specifics... Instead this article was about the first glimpses into this Pope's new papacy and where he sees needs for change.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Garrett from Texas

      "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.

      I believe it was a cultural change message as opposed to a specific change message at this stage. He was stating strategy, not tactics.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • JoeS

      The Catholic Church lost the priesthood a long time ago. They no longer have a concrete doctrine.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:38 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.