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Pope Francis risks liberals' wrath by seeing it as his job to protect doctrines of Church

Michael Kelly


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Hard to categorise: Pope Francis (left) greets people during the weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Hard to categorise: Pope Francis (left) greets people during the weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Hard to categorise: Pope Francis (left) greets people during the weekly general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

In the papal conclave that elected Angelo Roncalli in 1958, there were cardinals from just 21 countries. Europe was very much still the centre of power of Christianity. The man who emerged as pope, taking the name John XXIII, was to be a transitional pope, Vatican-watchers said. At almost 77 years of age, the cardinals perceived him to be a safe pair of hands to give them a breather after almost 20 intense years of the great war-time Pope Pius XII.

Papa Roncalli didn't exactly follow the script and quickly went about organising a major council of bishops to see how the Church could be more relevant to a rapidly modernising world. He also knew that the centre of gravity was shifting from Europe to the new world and many bishops from far-flung places made their way to Rome for the first time.

What became known as Vatican II met from 1962-65 and threw open the windows of the Church. It ushered in reforms like the Mass being celebrated in the local language. The altars were also turned around and the priest now no longer faced the same direction as the congregation, but towards the people, in a bid to make things appear more participatory.