Pope at 85: The Pope's Reform Hits Stride! Gloves Off!

ROME (AP), Pope Francis celebrated his 85th Birthday on Friday. This milestone is made more impressive by the coronavirus pandemic and his summertime intestinal surgery. His predecessor, Leo XIII, was the last pope to live longer than him over a century ago.

Pope at 85: The Pope's Reform Hits Stride! Gloves Off!

Francis continues to be a strong leader, just finishing a quick trip to Cyprus, Greece, and Slovakia after his pandemic-defying trips this year to Hungary, Slovakia, and Iraq. He is not slowing down in his efforts to make the post COVID world more sustainable, just, and fraternal where the poor are prioritised.

Francis has also initiated a two-year unprecedented consultation of rank and file Catholics to improve the church's sensitivity to the laity.

The Rev. said, "I see a lot energy." Antonio Spadaro is one of Francis' most trusted Jesuit communications gurus. "What we are seeing is the natural expression of the seeds he has sown.

Francis is also facing problems at home as well as abroad, and is being opposed by the conservative Catholic right. He responded by saying "no more Mr. Nice Guy"

After eight years of gently urging Catholic hierarchs into financial prudence, Francis has taken the gloves off this year and seems poised to continue that trend.

Francis, who was celebrating his 50th birthday last year, ordered a 10% cut in cardinal salaries across the board and a smaller reduction in salaries for Vatican employees in an effort to reduce the Vatican's budget deficit of $50 million ($57 million).

He imposed a gift cap of 40 euros ($45) on Holy See personnel to combat corruption. A law was passed that allowed cardinals and bishops, as well as his close advisor, to be criminally tried by the Vatican's lay-led Tribunal. This set the stage for the highly publicized trial of Cardinal Angelo Becciu on finance-related charges.

He hasn't made any new friends outside the Vatican. Nearly a dozen Polish bishops were elected last year after he approved a 2019 law that outlines how cardinals and episcopals could be investigated for sex abuse cover up.

Francis also approved term limits to lay Catholic leaders to limit their abuses. This led to the forced resignation of powerful church leaders. After a media storm over allegations of corruption and governance, he accepted the resignation as Paris archbishop.

The Rev. Robert Gahl is the director of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross’s Program of Church Management.

"While we celebrate his birthday, Vatican watchers also look for more concrete signs regarding the pope’s new rules, particularly from those who report to him within Vatican," Gahl stated in an email. He noted that Francis' new policies and regulations require a shift in culture.

Francis' hard line won him a round of applause from Holy See cardinals and bishops. Later that day, he received a dozen African- and Syrian migrants who the Vatican assisted to resettle from Cyprus.

Francis' July decision to reverse Pope Benedict XVI and reimpose restrictions regarding the celebration of the old Latin Mass was what riled his critics. Francis stated that he had to act because Benedict's 2007 decision not to allow the celebration of the old Rite to be freed up in 2007 had caused divisions within the church and been exploited to some extent by conservatives.

Francis spoke out about his critics, saying "Some wanted me to die."

Francis shared his confession with Slovakian Jesuits in September that he knew from his July 10-day hospitalization to remove 33 cm (about 13 inches), of his large intestinal tract. This had given hope to some conservative Catholics who were eager for a new pope.

"I know that there were meetings among priests who thought that the pope was worse than what was being spoken," he said to the Jesuits in remarks later published in La Civilta Cattolica, a Vatican-approved Jesuit journal. "They were preparing for the conclave."

Although it may not have been true, history suggests that priests could have discussed the possibility.

When Benedict resigned in February 2013, he was 85 years old. He became the first pope in 600 years to do so and opened the door for Francis' election. Benedict stated that he was in good health at the time but didn't feel strong enough to continue.

John Paul II, who was 84 years old, and John Paul I, 65-years-old after only 33 days of service were the last to die. Almost all of the 20th century popes died within their 80s or younger, except for Pope Leo XIII who died in 1903.

Francis, early in his pontificate, predicted a brief papacy of two to three years and credited Benedict for having "opened the doors" to future papal retirements.

After his July surgery, the Argentine Jesuit stated that he didn't think about resigning.

This is good news for Sister Nathalie, who is one of the most prominent women at Vatican. Francis selected her to organize the two-year process of consultation of Catholics from around the world that will culminate in 2023 with a meeting among bishops, also known as a synod.

Becquart is well-aware of the opposition to the pope as he attempts to transform the church into a more laity-focused, less clerical institution.

She said this week at a conference, "It's an appeal to change." "And it's not an easy road."

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