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Pope Francis: Fostering a more inclusive Church

Eleven years ago, when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected as the new pope, he chose the name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, who he described as “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.”

The Pope’s chosen name also symbolizes humility and simplicity, which has been a mark of his papacy. He has chosen a simpler lifestyle — opting for a more modest abode, simple meals, more practical clothing — as he stressed once that, “A simple lifestyle is good for us, helping us to better share with those in need.”

His simplicity has, in fact, made him closer, more accessible to the people, which is how he wants the Catholic Church to be. In one of his acts of humility, he broke tradition when he knelt before a priest and confessed his sins in full view of the congregation during a penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica in 2014. During his 77th birthday, he had breakfast with three homeless people.

Pope Francis has been known for his unorthodox views, attracting attention even from non-Catholics. He focuses on creating a church that is more inclusive, more welcoming.

In 2021, during the celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Pope said “it is necessary to walk together, without prejudice and without fear, placing ourselves next to those who are most vulnerable: migrants, refugees, displaced persons, victims of trafficking and the abandoned. We are called to build an increasingly inclusive world that excludes no one.”

He has also highlighted the integral role of women in Church and society, reminding everyone that “the Church is herself a woman: a daughter, a bride, and a mother.”

Amid the challenges of hatred, violence, and ideological conflicts, the Pope spoke about how women’s unique qualities, specifically tenderness and compassion are essential in fostering unity and restoring humanity’s true identity.

He also called for concerted efforts to address the issues faced by women worldwide, including violence, inequality, and injustice; and highlighted how education for girls and young women is essential in promoting overall human development.

The Pope has also been known for his advocacy on the environment. He has been raising awareness about climate change and how it impacts the world’s people and the dignity of life.

His 2015 landmark encyclical, Laudato Si’, encourages the care for our common home, the planet earth, calling for man to act against the degradation of our environment.

Time and again, he has urged leaders to take immediate action against the climate crisis. In his message during the COP28, he stressed that “the destruction of the environment is an offence against God” as it endangers humanity, especially the most vulnerable.

Moreover, amid ongoing wars, specifically in Gaza and Ukraine, Pope Francis has constantly called for peace, encouraging ceasefire and negotiations, and calling on everyone to pray for victims of war and violence.

This Lent, the Pope sends a strong message to us amid the global challenges we are facing. He says, “It is time to act, and in Lent, to act also means to pause. To pause in prayer, in order to receive the word of God, to pause like the Samaritan in the presence of a wounded brother or sister. Love of God and love of neighbor are one love.”

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