THE cardinals who elected Pope Francis were undoubtedly looking
for a man capable of undertaking two large tasks.
The first involves what can broadly be described as internal
reform. The second is to make the Church capable of fulfilling the
mandate given to her by Jesus Christ - to spread the gospel through
Its effectiveness in the second has been damaged by lack of
action with the first. Internal reform includes the on-going work
of purifying the Roman Catholic Church from clerical sex-abuse
Pope Francis must focus on the governance of the Vatican, end
the squabbling between high-ranking cardinals that has dogged the
late years of the papacy of Benedict XVI, and improve the
operational efficiency and communications that let Pope Benedict
down on more than one occasion.
Both Benedict XVI and John Paul II made "the new evangelisation"
their priority. This term is used to describe the great project to
regenerate the faith in mostly Western countries that were
historically Christian but are now cutting adrift from their
The Catholic Church fears that, if the crisis of faith continues
unabated, the Christian faith could disappear altogether in some
countries. Pope Francis's membership of the Jesuit order may have
swayed the cardinal-electors in view of the task in hand.
He will be expected to lead the Church as it tries to preach the
gospel in a digital age, and often in the face of aggressive
secularism which increasingly challenges Christian activity in
public life. It will be of interest to see how he relates to the
other Churches, which, in general, feel equally beleaguered.
Pope Francis, like the emerging generation of Roman Catholic
leaders, takes the view that renewal can only be achieved if all
the elements in the Church - cardinals, bishops, priests and laity
- are first of all radically faithful to its teaching in their own
lives, even if that comes at the price of ostracism, mockery,
harassment, and even persecution.
It is likely that Pope Francis I will tie internal reform to the
new evangelisation, therefore, in the hope that a more faithful
Church will serve to regenerate the moral and social fabric of