November 26th, 2013
10:21 AM ET

Pope Francis: No more business as usual

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
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(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."


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. sly

    Wow – it's nice to see even the dinosauers among us are able to progress.

    Doesn't take a whole lot of intelligence to move past the bigotry towards blacks, gays, women that are prevelant among the conservatives in religion and in your neighborhood. Even an iceberg can slide the right direction, sometimes.

    Sounds like this new Pope is ready to move religion into the ... 1800's.

    November 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  2. Chris

    Maybe the first change should be to stop praying to bones and statues. When you can talk right to the owner and CEO, why mess with a secretary.

    November 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
    • NeoKat1

      You must be really important and very humble. Congrats!

      November 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Caritas 06

      Catholics do not pray to or worship either. If we treat the Declaration of Independence with reverence or lay a wreath at Washingtns tomb that does not mean Americans pray to either. The

      November 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • m

      Only a fool thinks Catholics pray to saints as if they are God. Every semi literate Catholic knows the Catechism clearly states that God is the one true God. Saints are very clearly stated as being models for which to live our lives; not deities to worship. I strongly suggest you stop your hateful speech and try to embrace your sister religions.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The standard Catholic speech is that they do not pray TO The Virgin Mary or any of their myriad saints, they pray THROUGH them.
        Have you ever read Gulliver's Travels? In the land of Laputa, if one wishes to get the attention of the King, one must first engage his flapper – someone whose job it is to jiggle the King's ear with a bladder on a stick.
        In the Catholic world, the Saints are God's flappers.
        For example, if you can't get into your car, God is more likely to remind you that you left you keys in the bathroom if you engage Saint Zita first. As the Patron Saint of Lost Keys, she can communicate your prayer better than you can yourself.

        November 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  3. truth

    People need to turn from empty religions to Jesus Christ. Period
    Hell will be overflowing with religious people.
    Jesus said: unles you repent you will perish.

    November 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • sly

      ...or ... just turn away from religion.

      Religion is good for those that want to believe in it – I hear it makes some folks happy. So that's great. I approve. I like anything that really makes people happy and generally doesn't hurt folks. So, good for religion, the NFL, Brittney Spears, a good walk, a nice fat NorCal doob. It's all good.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  4. Mike

    What a difference a year makes. It wasn't so long ago when it seemed that CNN was virulently anti-catholic in every story they ran on the church. Now it seems that CNN might as well stand for the Catholic News Network. Today they have several anchors who openly talk about their Catholicism on the air, and the network can't let a day go by without acting as a sounding board for the pope. It's like CNN is to Catholics what Fox News is to conservatives or MSNBC is to liberals.

    I'm not complaining; just making an observation.

    November 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • sly

      Never noticed. CNN is a news organization, owned like most by the far right wing.

      It does an ok job of reporting all opinions on all subjects. Amusing to see the bozo's on here contending it is left leaning or right leaning or anti catholic or anti jewish or pro christian. That is just in these conspiracy-minded paranoids brains.

      Like almost all news organizations (and no, Fox is not news, thats totally staged), it simply reports the news.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      The difference is in what the church is DOING. Shouldn't be that big of a surprise, but maybe next time someone jumps to the conclusion that people calling them out on the evil that is being done are just anti-catholic (or whatever the next group is), perhaps they should instead look at what is being done and consider if the criticism is justified.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  5. Rg

    People don't want it to change so that they can keep hating it

    November 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  6. Yolanda

    Thanks God for Santo Papa Francis...

    November 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  7. Joe

    It's good that the Pope realizes that change is needed, The church can decide to be relevant in today's society or continue on its path of being antiquated and irrelevant. I'm sure that there will be plenty of people who will prefer stagnation given the choice.

    November 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  8. truth

    Religions. .. religions....
    Empty man-made religions..Catholicism is a corrupted religion that has sent men to hell because it obcures the truth. No one can go to the kindom of heaven unless is born again. Do all the good works that u can...and still go to hell. WHY? becauae if a person can go to heaven by his good works or what, then tell me please whyy did Jesus went trou the cross?????
    If you are not forgiven by faith in christ. You are lost forever.
    Religion is the devils tool to condemn. Man..

    November 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • WASP

      @"TRUTH": you do know "christians" didn't happen until after the roman catholics were long in power after stealing what the jews had written after conquering isreal a few times........well before losing the whole thing to the palesitines.

      so out of all the crazies i vote the jews are closer to the truth. 🙂
      just my opinion

      November 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • J.M.Brouillette

      Peter 1:3-11 (Denominationalism is man made)

      Confirming One’s Calling and Election
      3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
      5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
      10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • J.M.Brouillette

      Romans 2:4-11

      4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
      5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  9. Tutuvabene

    He wants to create broader opportunities for female inclusiveness but won't ordaine women? A bit contradictory. What is the objection to ordaining women? The Episcopaleons and the Lutherns ordain them and they've performed well.

    November 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  10. john

    the church has to stop believing that Jesus is god

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

      The church has to stop believing god is.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm |

    He should be held to the standard that Jesus spoke.... Does he love God with his whole being and does he love his neighbor? The Catholic corporation has not been good lately in bringing the good news to those which need to feel the love of the message.
    Let us see what his actions are.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  12. Catherine

    How about starting at the Vatican by selling off that massive art collection and using the proceeds to rebuild communities and ghettos where the poor actually live? The wealth in the Catholic Church is astounding. It doesn't help the poor sitting there.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • WASP


      November 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      In her heyday, Mother Theresa received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations.
      Instead of using this money to build hospitals, upgrade her houses for the dying, or even to purchase medical equipment (nuns in her service were forced to re-use blunt, improperly sterilized needles, for example) she instead used the donations to build a few more convents and the rest, unsurprisingly, went straight into the Vatican coffers.
      $$$$$ Praise The Lord and Pass the Collection Plate $$$$$$

      November 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • Martin Believer

        Reading and informing yourself would cultivate your otherwise mental pigmie mentality.

        November 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          And what, exactly, did I get wrong regrading Mother Theresa and her Houses for the Dying?
          How about some of these choice Theresa statements:
          "It (AIDS) is the retribution for "improper se.xual misconduct."
          "It is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot. The world is much helped by the suffering of poor people."
          Her words to a man dying of painful cancer :You are suffering like Christ. Therefore Jesus must be kissing you."
          "There is no problem of overpopulation, only of God's will."

          Of course, as she herself lay dying, she received the very best palliative care, including pain killers.

          November 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Frank

      If you knew and followed Francis since he became Pope you would realize this is EXACTLY what he is trying to do. He is taking the right steps in my opinion. You can't just sell the Vatican, he is taking the first step and I believe it to be the right one. Let's hope he survives, some people will not like this.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
      • john

        I don't see why everyone is so negative. This is a good thing and this new Pope seems like a true Christian. Something that most churches lack these days including the Catholic church. Teach love and not hate. What a concept!

        November 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • KikiE

      Agreed! I was struck by that when I visited the Vatican. Such opulence was disturbing. I just kept thinking 'how many people could be fed by that gilded column, tapestry, etc?' I'm not religious but am glad to at least hear some of this new stuff coming from the Pope. It at least sounds like he 'gets it'.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
      • sly

        Totally disagree.

        People can have their gold, people can be rich. Humans have absolutely NO reason to share all their wealth with the poor. Frankly, having people starve to death in a world of 10 billion people is just natural selection. I don't feel compelled to share my money to build say, anthills to prevent ants from dying. Humans are simply another animal.

        I don't owe nothin' to nobody. If I am lucky or skilled enough to get rich, and others drop out of high school and end up poor and skill-less in the ghetto, tough. Not my problem.

        And don't anyone on here make up all that BS about how they care. BS – let's see how many white rich Americans were giving food to poor black Africans over the past 40 years. Did you?

        November 26, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      To be honest, I don't care if they Vatican sells off their collection of art or gilded hats – I'd just like them to open the entire content of Vatican Library to the public.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
    • Martin Believer

      The Vatican through Caritas dishes out over 5 billion every year helping the poor of the world. No one else gives more money to the poor. Regarding selling the Vatican art pieces, your garage-sale pigmie mentality will never understand the value of pieces of art which represent over 2,000 years of Catholic tradition and which are not for sale, the same way the Louvre, Prado and other great museums of the world wouldn't hold your garage sale either.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  13. Mike

    Wow! I have to admit, I'm impressed and very happy to see almost all of the comments positive. Anytime there's a report on the Catholic Church, all I ever see are disgusting and very nasty remarks. Not this time. Perhaps Pope Francis is a blessing to the Catholics Church. My God even an Atheist had something nice to say. I am smiling!!

    November 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • GrowUp

      You can thank the Vatican PR machine for your warm and fuzzies.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Regardless of how I feel about the RCC as an enti/ty or Catholic theology in general, this Pope is certainly a refreshing change from hid bureaucratic, tactless predecessor.
      I'd much rather this humble, charitable man who is unafraid to walk among the people be the face of the RCC as opposed to the man who literally wrote the book on aiding and abetting pedophiles.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson rebukes Richard Dawkins

      As a former Catholic and now atheist, add me to the list of folks that like this guy. It will be interesting to see just how much change he can bring and how quickly.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • ooo

      Now that was a closeted shot at athiests. Not very nice.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      As I've said, every time the church does something horrorific and pure evil – I'm not against the church, I'm against the rotten things that they are doing. When they do well, I'll speak to that too.

      But – when I spoke against the church's support of pedophile priests, some posters sit there and cry about how we're just anti-Catholic, and we'd be negative no matter what they did. It's not true. The church does good, people can see it. Just up to now, it's all been PR and posturing, not real change. This guy – he's made real changes and he's saying and doing the right things to make the church live up to it's own religion.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Grandall

      I am not a Catholic, but a separation from the inflexibility of dated rules and a focus on the dynamism of the living God would be a big draw for me to convert for my fiance'.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  14. tony

    While this edict from Pope Francis will go a long way in reforming the Catholic church and re-connecting with its faithful, I know for fact the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will fight this tooth-and-nail as following Pope Francis's edict will diminish their power. For the longest time, the CBCP has been spoiled to the extent that it meddles in all facets of society including in the political arena. Not only that, no member of the CBCP has ever been convicted much less imprisoned for commiting heinous crimes like pedophilia.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  15. mike electrician

    Such a breath of fresh air!

    November 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  16. truth


    November 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  17. Robert Carlisle

    So when is the catholic church going to marry gays?

    November 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The same day that Baptists accept evolution.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • ooo

      Or Repubs accept climate change.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      They aren't. Why should they?

      I'm an atheist, and they're opposite me on most issues, but they've a right to their beliefs too. So long as they stop trying to write their religion into law, force it on me, I'm just fine with them thinking it's wrong. That's their belief.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
  18. Dan

    Got new for you people... the pope is the Antichrist! Wolf in sheep clothing.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”
      —1 John 2:18

      Uh – I think "the last hour" was supposed to have happened 2,000 years ago.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
      • Brian

        See 2nd Peter Chapter 3, where for the Lord, 1,000 years is as 1 day, so in God's plan for mankind, His son has only been gone from this earth for slightly over 2 days – actually quite recent.

        Also, the correct term for the end-of-the-age Antichrist is the Beast. The Book of Revelation, however, indicates there will be 2 beasts. IF this pope "causes fire to come down from heaven in the sight of men", per Revelation he will be the 2nd Beast and False Prophet. But that's IF.

        November 26, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          I'm certainly waiting on tenterhooks to see the 10 horned, 7 headed, amphibious bear beast emerge from the water, along with the 7 headed dragon that spews torrents of water and snacks on pregnant women and the swarms of armour clad, crowned locusts with the face of a man, the hair of a woman, the mouth of a lion and the tail of a scorpion.

          November 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
        • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson rebukes Richard Dawkins

          Ah, yes, the "beast" and his mark (666). Too bad the mark turned out to be a code for Nero's name, who was feared by the Christians of Rome. That would mean that the book of revelations underwent some revision in the 1st century by scribes.

          November 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • UriNation

      Your mother wears army boots.

      November 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
      • WASP

        "urination" XD

        November 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • WASP

      "even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”

      i love this part of that quote, so exactly how many anti-christs have there been?
      isn't one enough? XD
      cool thing is it said "even now many" which indicates more than one at one time, i wonder if the author was talking about the romans?

      November 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
    • Mark

      Certain Protestants have been saying this since Martin Luther. It's no more true now than it ever has been.

      November 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  19. Disgusted1

    Did the pope make mention of eliminating Celibacy? or coddling pedophile's? How many children must suffer at the hands of a pedophile priest, or the church who protects them,....

    November 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  20. publicdole

    Image all those burning in eternal hell because of the sins of not obeying many of the previous church rules. All BS as far as the infrastructure goes.

    November 26, 2013 at 2:51 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.