New dawn, new Pope, new Challenges

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Pope Francis I
“Habemus Papam” – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., is the new Catholic chief – Pope Francis I. Photo-Catholic Church/Flickr

The election in favour of Pope Francis is indicative of the level of awareness amongst the cardinals who chose him largely because he hails from Latin America, home to 40% of the world’s Catholics. However, it seems that the new recruit has some challenging new assignments.

Vatican officials have blatantly displayed their resistance against the change in the ways of the church’s dealings.  The Catholic Church is already plagued with scandals over clerical sex abuse and alleged corruption, and infighting. There is a pressure on the Pope to make its finances more open.

The new Pope’s preliminary schedule of tasks includes a meeting with his predecessor Benedict Pope Emeritus. The meeting holds significance in its own right owing to the existence of a living retired pope which may lead to the possibility of the emergence of a rival power.

During the time of Benedict, the Catholic Church witnessed a decline. In addition study conducted in the United States revealed that only 27 percent of the church’s members defined themselves as “strong” Catholics, which is the lowest in four decades. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston expressed hope that Francis would fight rising secularism, “We pledge our faithful support for the Holy Father as he leads the Church in proclaiming the New Evangelization, inviting all people to a develop a closer relationship with Christ and to share that gift with others.”

There is also a rising debate in the Church about whether women should be elected to become priests. Another rising question is of celibacy requirement for priests. Pope Benedict has previously subtlety exhibited his disagreement over the issue when an Austrian priests’ group wanted the church to allow women to be appointed and pushed for the removal of the celibacy requirement. The issue stills requires a solution, after the confession of an Australian priest last year, to have been married for a year and claim that there were more like him.

According to Open Doors, a group that documents Christian persecution, in early 2013, 100 million Christians have been subject to oppression worldwide. Notable offenders are Asia and the Middle East. The situation demands concern as the global Christian community looks up to the Pope for their rescue.

In the attempts to draw more people to the teachings of the Church, majority of Catholics, especially in the US are demanding that the new Pope lead the Church in a more liberal direction. They are demanding that the Church be supportive of gay marriages and birth control, including abortion.

The appointment of the new Pope and brought along with it challenges which are daunting to say the least. However, with Pope Francis’ emphasis on the Church’s duty we can hope his success.

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