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. David

    wow, this Pope is different, isn't he? I just don't know how long the right wing creatures like Rush, Hannity, Levin, Drudge, etc, etc, can hold their fire before they start to attack this Pope.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Realist

      Naw,, they like him. Power and money is what they have in common.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  2. Name*John

    Ohh yeah pope, well start by canceling outdated and absurd rules like no women priests, let priests marry, quit banning birth control for god sake and accept gays into the church, they were created this way by God and you cannot dispose of them. Quit being the richest church in the world. This is just a start, oh and, stop covering up pedophile priests.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Pope Bubba

      Well, yeah.... Everything but THAT stuff.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  3. wickedgirlsabrina

    Commenter: Something positive

    Troll: Negative comment

    Commenter: Personal reaction post

    Troll: Post about how they're wrong because commenter's reaction doesn't match theirs.

    Commenter: Scripture post

    Troll: Ignorant bashing comment

    Commenter: Post showing support for the new Pope

    Troll: Comment about unrelated, inflammatory issue

    Some people indeed have nothing better to do with their time than obsessively scan comment boards to make themselves feel better by way of belittling anyone that may not agree with their world view, or have some twisted need to diminish any good that they might see by throwing bad in the face of it. What a sad existence.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Alias

      If it would make you feel better, I think we could convince most people to start with a negative comment for a page or two.
      Then the replies would be positive and we could all end on a happy note?

      November 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  4. Alias

    I like this pope, but I still don't believe in the bible.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Charlie Manson

      I like him too. He shares my moral values. I love deceiving.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  5. sammy750

    Why would the pope meet with Putin, the most evil man on earth. What is Putin setting up now. Some evil scheme

    November 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Alias

      The most evil man on earth? Really?
      You do know he was /is in charge of a pile of nukes that could destroy the planet, and we're all still here?

      November 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  6. lewtwo

    Does that mean they are going to revive the business of of selling "indulgences" to go along with the fake relics ?

    November 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • God

      Wish they would stop pretending they are drinking my son's blood and eating his flesh. It really looks disgusting from up here. How would you like it if they did that to your family.

      And to kiss the bones of dead people, Me.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
      • SS

        But you told us to do that. John 6 remember?

        November 26, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  7. Angela

    I love this pope! I wish I was younger to become "something" in the church I distanced myself from, many years ago.
    I'll pray the crazies don't do anything stupid against him!

    November 26, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Charlie Manson

      Yes, I like this pope too. He shares my moral values.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  8. Colin

    What is interesting to me is that the Christian god, the Holy Trinity, is not even mentioned in the Bible. There is ZERO reference to the Christian god anywhere, from Genesis to Revelation. The reason for this is simple (and very telling). He post dates the Bible.

    The last books of the Bible were written in about 150 CE. The last is probably 2 Peter, one of the two Epistles forged under the name of Peter the Apostle. The Holy Trinity was not developed in Christianity until at least 50 and as much as 170 years later.

    Now, stop and dwell on this for a moment. The Bible is supposedly the holy word of God….and he doesn’t even rate a mention. Anywhere!!!

    November 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • God

      I myself don't even know who that is. And this christian stuff? Those people are driving me crazy with all their destruction to innocent life.


      November 26, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
      • God

        p.s. the correct spelling of my name is "O D I N"...

        November 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Maderia

      Really? What Bible have you been reading?

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

        Fine. Point one out (and not the Comma Johanneum pls)

        November 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • fred

      Certainly the words holy trinity are not used but you know as well as most that Jesus said the Father and I are one. Jesus said I am God and the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the desert after his baptism.

      November 26, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        fred, where in the NT did Jesus say "I am God" ?

        November 26, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
        • fred

          Isaiah 40:28, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

          Paul speaking of Jesus in Colossians 1:16–17 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—call things have been created through Him and for Him.

          In John 8: 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him,

          "I AM" is what the Jews knew to be what God called himself in Exodus.

          November 26, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  9. The Dope Pope...

    a picture is worth a thousand puffs...

    November 26, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Sam

      Ignorant. Uneducated.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
      • Alias

        Sarcasm and satire are actually among the more intellectual forms of humor.

        November 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  10. Andy

    Here's an idea. Sell some of your gold and give it to the victims.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Can't afford...

      to donate when I got ammo and guns and bibles and survival gear and water to buy... it's an obvious outward display of my faith in God...

      November 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Sam

      Here is an even better idea Andy. Read. Yes read the article and try to stay focused. You don't know what you are talking about.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  11. Rick Hays

    Way too little ..........way too late. Is a crook repentant before he is caught? Not likely.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Sam

      Wow. Do you folllow politics? I think you"re confused who you are talking about >>> did you mean Obama?

      November 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  12. JJ

    Wow...that's quite a bong hit Frank is holding in. I've never seen so much smoke from one toke. No wonder he's the pope. He'd be a shoe-in with me and the fellas in the frat house.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Maria

      No you're mistaken my friend. That's incense to show adoration to our blessed Lord. You are on the wrong page for editorials. This thread is for religion and folks don't appreciate your comments.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • religion; a way to control the weak minded

        lol take your religion and shove it. Last time I checked, religious people aren't the only ones who can comment on these stories....

        November 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
      • Brother Maynard

        did you read the article?
        Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. 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

        November 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  13. JerseyJeff

    Love this Pope.

    The Catholic Church has needed a man like this for sometime now and his moves are definitely encouraging to many Catholics as well as attracting new people to the Universal Church.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • peterblood71

      Yeah this new Pope is a real mensch in the Christian tradition as all previous ones the last hundred years have been church groveling ineffective toadies wearing a white clown costume and spewing the same stubborn out-of-touch nonsense. I really like this guy – no nonsense, let's get it done – you gotta love it. First thing is get rid of the garb for Pope's, Cardinal's, Bishop's whatever. The obvious reason they wear these clown costumes is to elevate themselves above the rest, but they are just men. What do you think God and Jesus would make of such vain disingenuous outfits? Wear a nice suit guys, and the Pope's can be white. He'd still look great.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        You just don't understand the way in which divine, psychic messages work.
        Your use of the word "mensch" makes me think you might be Jewish, which is all well and good.
        The Hebrew people understand the importance of headgear when it comes to God.
        But what the Torah and Tanakh miss, but the RCC understands, is that God needs a proper receiver for His divine messages. A great big, gilded hat is like a satellite dish as compared to the rabbit ears that is a yarmulke.
        This is why the Catholic Church has evolved a system of hierarchical haberdashery. The more important the clergyman, the bigger and more ornate his hat..
        Do you really expect the Pope to be able to speak ex-cathedra if he doesn't wear the proper gear?

        November 26, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
        • peterblood71

          I'm not Jewish but I love Yiddish words. Billy Graham didn't need a clown costume or bigger Flying Nun hat to make his points or be well respected. Costumes are a result of the vanity of man which God and Jesus would no doubt reject. They are distancing and give the wearer an inflated opinion of themselves and their power. Precisely the kind of hubris our deities and their teachings would obviously reject.

          November 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
        • Cal

          I enjoyed your post Peter- reminds me a little of some "with it" pastors today that wear their holy jeans and wear sandals or crocs in the pulpit- playing the role we once called it

          November 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  14. stonedwhitetrash

    There's no religion more hypocritical or violent than The Roman Catholic Church, now after being exposed it has decided to believe as Bob Dylan stated in 1964 "The times they are a-changing" To survive the Church must do some changing. That's the only reason Francis was chosen

    November 26, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Lucien Wilbanks

      Stupid hippie

      November 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • sonny chapman

        Matthew 5,11."The heavens rejoice when my words are slammed on Earth."

        November 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Realist

      he was selected because because they wanted to market 'humble', and needed a good con man for that spot.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Garrett from Texas

      And a recognition that change is needed is bad? Why exactly?

      November 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  15. jcs

    This pope is going to conveniently wind up dead at the vatican's hand.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Realist

      not really,, this ones's dirty too

      November 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  16. Colin

    Most people think there are just the 10 Commandments in the Bible. There are actually just over 600 sprinkled throughout its many pages. They go into great detail about how Greco-Roman Jewish farm and trading life should be lead, down to telling the Jews in detail what animals humans can and cannot eat and how to cook and prepare these plants and animals indigenous to Greco-Roman Palestine.

    Oddly, NONE of these 600 odd rules laid down by the creator of the Universe for how human beings should live our lives tell the ancient Russians, Chinese, Celts, Sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, nor any of the thousands of other races and cultures of the time how to cook or do anything. Nor does the Bible mention any human activity that would develop after it was written and how it should be conducted.

    It is blindingly obvious, beyond any sane doubt, that the Greco-Roman Jews made God in their image and not vice-versa. Why we still give any credibility to these ancient Mediterranean myths in the21st Century is the ONLY interesting question in the entire Judeo-Christian saga.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Lucien Wilbanks

      You must live a very sad life. I feel sorry for you

      November 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
      • Colin


        November 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
        • Realist

          the poster was brainwashed with fear,, causing mental blocking to reasoning. Religion does that.

          November 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Because historical facts are all so sad and depressing.
          If you spend time trying to reconcile actual evidence with what the infallible Bible says, you must be a sad and lonely person.
          Torture is thoroughly depressing unless you can believe that the dude who was tortured knew it would happen, wanted it to happend and would do it again because he loves you.

          Facts are sterile, but myths have flavour!

          November 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
        • God


          Why would I have myself killed. After all, you delusionals say my son is me. Man, you guys are way our there.


          November 26, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
        • Alias

          But you had to let the romans torture you/your son to death. Your book says it was the only way you could judge us the way you wanted to when we die.

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

        The first commandment in dealing with people: The truth hurts.
        Poeple will deny it and criticize the messenger.

        November 26, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
        • God

          all commandments were developed by good people. Religion loves to steal.

          November 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Realist

      secular society decides morality. BTW: religion steals the good works and practices of others and claims it as theirs. They have no concept.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • A Dose of Reality

      The best response someone can come up with is something about Colin living a lonely life? The responder obviously cannot refute ANYTHING that Colin said. Now that IS SAD.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • fred

      No doubt the Greco-Roman Jews made God in their image or at a minimum most of them did. It did not matter if they were Sadducees or Pharisees they had an image of their long awaited King (Christ). Their image of the savior they were waiting for was like David and would smash the Roman rule. You are correct and they as most religious types then and now create an image of God that is very self motivated. Jesus was not the image of God the Jews created and was in stark contrast. That is how you can tell God apart from all the man made gods over the history of mankind. God is nothing like the things of this earth (the creation) which man continues to use to create an image that is palatable.

      The reason the knowledge of God continues is because Gods presence is very real. Jesus was the full reflection of the Glory of God and when Pilate asked "what is truth" it was given. My Kingdom is not of this world was the truth that the Greeks, Romans and Jews needed to hear. That truth cannot be revealed by the things of this world so Jesus said I will send the Holy Spirit who will convict you of truth. That is why since Pentecost Christianity has grown from a handful to the largest religion. As it was with the Jews so too many Christians have fashioned God in their image.

      November 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  17. Realist

    What has the pope done to set the example on helping the small children abused in his religion?

    Oh, nothing. He allows the to suffer while his bishops lobby to stop laws that help the children victims.

    Looks like this ones a lying con man too. Off ignoring his church's sins and deflecting.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Andy

      You've pretty much summed it up. Well said.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      This is not true.

      I've been watching the church stonewall and deny and fight, and use the dirtiest tactics possible on this issue for literally decades (the worst sample being when they had their lawyers accuse the victim's parents of being the actual molesters).

      But, Pope Francis has made changes. For the first time EVER, an accusation against a priest, reported to the Vatican, was passed on to the local police, and they're cooperating with the investigation. That NEVER happened before.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  18. anthrogirl

    This pope is making me rethink leaving the Church. Hope this filters down to the parishes. Like in politics, all religion is local.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • JJ

      Frank might be a good man but the pedophile infested cult is still a criminal organization. Don't be fooled by this one man.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • Realist

        he's part of the cover ups.

        November 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Realist

      this isn't local,, it's power and money. It's the vatican.

      Nothing like catholics wanting to report to a dictator.

      November 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • Sam

        Your flippant comments show nothing but old hate. Catholics do not report to a dictator rather a spiritual leader..."I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:13 There have been 266 Popes since Peter that provide spiritual guidance on the Word of the Lord.

        November 26, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  19. Daniel P. Hanover

    All Roman Catholics should repent and turn to the teachings of Martin Luther as Jesus intended !

    November 26, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • snowboarder

      lol! sarcasm?

      November 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  20. Reality # 2

    Dear Francis,

    Once again, we come to save you a lot of time and money:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    November 26, 2013 at 3:58 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.