Tuesday 12 December 2017

“It's a shame that Cardinal Bergoglio never had the opportunity to mingle incognito in the bars of modern Dublin.”

Damian Thompson

Pope Francis I, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, is a priest of holinesss and tremendous modesty of manner – a man who, until now, has taken the bus to work.

His challenge is clear. He needs to learn from Benedict XVI's greatest success – and his greatest failure. The success was the restoration of reverent, mystical worship to the centre of Catholic life, an achievement that has inspired a dynamic generation of young Catholics. The failure was Benedict's inability to reform the corrupt structures of the Roman curia, which should be recognised as the rotten core of the abuse crisis, and which is likely to have loomed large as an issue in the conclave. The historic decision to choose a Pope from the New World will perhaps make that task easier. Almost his first words as Pope were that he is “from far away”.

Alas, cleaning the stables is a more urgent priority than building on Ratzinger's magnificent liturgical renewal. In many parts of the world, Roman Catholicism has become almost synonymous with sexual abuse and its concealment. The crisis is as bad as it was in 2005, when Benedict was elected, although most of the crimes are now more distant historical events.

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