Pope Francis at 100 Days: Voices from Europe

Across Europe, in Italy, France, Austria, and Germany, there is overwhelming praise for Pope Francis after 100 days in office.

In Italy L’Adige writes,

A hundred days from the white smoke on that rainy evening of March 13th, there is no sign of letup of the ‘honeymoon’ between Pope Francis and the growing masses of the faithful. The words of gestures of a pope who cleared the field of papal trappings and heavy protocol to make way for the papacy’s pastoral nature as ‘bishop of Rome,’ close to the people, especially close to the poor and weak, are fascinating not only to believers, but also to nonbelievers from the whole world.

In France, Le Figaro wonders when the “papamania” will let up:

The gulf between the Catholic Church and public opinion seems to be reduced, thanks to a very popular and unconventional pope. Two objective indicators show the rapprochement: the number of people at Wednesday people audiences has nearly quadrupled. From an average of 25,000 people, the attendance approaches 100,000 people. And the new crowds that stream into St. Peter’s Square are not primarily the pious, nor the ‘Catholic” in the strict sense, but those curious to see the man in white up close. To the point of sometimes being magnetized by his charism of simplicity. The second measurable index: the Twitter account of the pope, launched by Benedict XVI with two million subscribers, has more than tripled.

The paper notes that, with Francis’ avoidance of the term ‘pope’ in favor of ‘bishop of Rome’ and his decision not to live in the official papal apartments, some are worried about a ‘desecration of the papal office.’

In Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna says, “I think that this fresh spirit, the good humor and also the challenge from Pope Francis, is good for all of us. In an unbelievable way, he knows how to bring together the radicality of Christianity with the joy of Christianity.” He said to Kathweb, “Sometimes I have the impression that we’re so grumpy, grim, and joyless. We ought to look more redeemed.” Schönborn spoke of a fundamentally entirely new positive attitude in the Church and in Austria in general: “If the horse-drawn carriage drivers in Cathedral Square are an indication of the opinion of people in our country, then this pope is much beloved.”

In the Bavarian Sonntagsblatt (“Sunday Paper”), Tilmann Kleinjung writes that “after only 100 days in office, this new pope has already made many people happy.” He writes:

Hardly a wonder that so many people want to approach this gregarious pope, who breaks down the barriers between himself and the world and makes a campaign out of modesty…  But one cannot reduce him to questions of style anymore, as happened in the first days after his election. His modestly, demonstratively put on display, is a clear call to all bishops, priests, and faithful to do the same as him. His lived out modeling may well effect more than any wordy and brilliant encyclical…

Whoever wishes to understand Francis must understand his gestures: the foot-washing in the youth detention center on Holy Thursday, the morning Masses in the guesthouse at which he gradually wishes to get to know every Vatican colleague, or the fact that the pope only speaks of himself as “Bishop of Rome.”

Kleinjung sees this manner of self-address as a strong ecumenical impulse. He notes that the president of the council of the Evangelical (i.e. Protestant) Church in Germany, Nikolaus Schneider, positively raved about the pope after meeting him. “He has reduced the overpowering aspect of the office of pope,” he said. He hopes that with this pope, ecumenism can be less rationalistic and inhibited and become a passion of the heart.

Jörg Bremer notes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that St. Peter’s Square is packed at every general audience:

Noticeably many Italians want to experience the new pope. Some bring a zucchetto, the white skullcap, and hope that Francis will come to them when he goes into the crowd. Then they would exchange the new one for the old one, as often happens. ‘Francis has developed a cult character,’ some say; he certainly speaks to young and old, rich and poor. In this it seems that his open and hearty manner is more important than his words. With him at has again become easier for church institutions like Cor Unum to raise money. In February, [Archbishop Gerhard] Müller [prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] still spoke of a ‘pogrom disposition’ against the church. But with Francis, the ‘powers that wish to discredit the church have not disappeared, but they are less aggressive and are waiting to see.’

Archbishop Müller speaks about liturgy: “The liturgy is solemn and has splendor and beauty, but it shouldn’t degenerate into pageantry,” and he speaks of a “noble, quite simplicity.” Churchgoers “deserve that the priest not show up in stained vestments and the flowers on the altar not be dried up, but simplicity is good.”

All translations by awr.



  1. Best quote in my opinion:

    … he knows how to bring together the radicality of Christianity with the joy of Christianity.”

    I am ready to let my faith be more of a love affair and less of a theory. With credit to GK Chesterton for that last bit.

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #5:

        Here is another excellent summary from a man I admire, John Carr. It is a helpful corrective to Allan’s dismissive comments.


        Some helpful clarifications:

        – *pickled peppers* – here is the actual context:

        “No room for whiners, gossips and climbers: Francis has no time for “Mr. and Mrs. Whiner” or “melancholy Christians whose faces have more in common with pickled peppers than joy.” For Francis, the gospel is “good news,” and we ought to show it. He also has no time for the “dark joy of gossip” and the bickering among believers. This kind of attack Francis calls “an ugly mechanism.” He reminds us: “Do not speak ill of one another. Do not denigrate one another. Do not belittle one another.” “In the end,” the pope said, “we are all traveling on the same road.” Francis repeatedly warns against clerical ambition: “careerism is leprosy. Leprosy.”

        (contrast that to Allan’s frequent comments on his kerfuffle blog – why just two days ago he posted an outrageous comment entitled the *Wacky Left* stating that they are worst than the SSPX or the Eastern Orthodox who may be in schism but at least are *orthodox*.)

        Other corrections:
        – “Ideologues need not apply: One predictable development in these first 100 days is the temptation to claim the pope is our kind of Catholic…social activist or evangelical Catholic, culture warrior or dialogue advocate, reformer or enforcer. When I was growing up the key question was whether we agreed with the pope, instead of whether the pope agreed with me. Some are trying to explain away Francis’ passionate identification with the poor and his blunt condemnations of a global economy that leaves too many behind. Others say all that social justice stuff is nice, but is he going to change teaching on abortion and gay marriage? Francis is not a chaplain to any faction, not a cheerleader for any political agenda. In fact, he has no time for ideologues who “falsify the Gospel…end up being intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness. And let’s not even speak of beauty, because they understand nothing of that.” He warns against those who resist Vatican II, “don’t want to change” and “wish to turn the clock back.” (appears to be exactly what Allan does – claims the pope to be his)

  2. More like sour grapes. Those who claim that the church will inevitably become a remnant to remain faithful, blaming its problems on secular society, are being proven wrong. The issue isn’t with the deposit of faith itself, but the presentation. The faith has been obscured for too long by scandal, politics, and reactionary fear. It’s time to unleash the presence of Christ upon the world, and the signs are that this is indeed Pope Francis’ primary agenda.

  3. Does the last quote from AB Muller mean that the CDF now has revised the GIRM and approves of flowers on the altar (so long as they are not withered)?

    1. @Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue – comment #9:
      Vorsicht: I thought of this possible reading as I translated it but went with it anyway. I take “on the altar” in the sense that we say “there were three priests on the altar” – not necessarily on top of the altar-table, but in the altar area.

  4. #13 in the America Magazine article hits the nail on the head: “Don’t clericalize the laity: For years, Pope Francis has emphasized the lay vocation to be salt, light and leaven in the world. He has said, “[We] focus on…the sanctuary, rather than bringing the Gospel to the world.” The call of the laity is “to live and spread the faith in their families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and beyond…to be a leaven of the love of God in society itself…. [The layperson] is to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from…everyday life.”

    John Allen’s own assessment of the first 100 days speaks of the Church and politics and he quotes a Italian sociologist who seems to indicate that the intersection of religion and politics should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the laity:

    “Italian sociologist Luca Diotallevi echoed the assessment.
    Francis, he said, represents “a strongly innovative approach with respect to the model of exercising episcopal ministry during the last two decades,” one that promises to “reopen an enormous space for the laity” to take the lead on the intersection of faith and politics.”

    It is here, at least in the USA, where our Catholic politicians with very few exceptions seem to isolate their faith to the private sphere as was done prior to the Council and not bring it forward in an evangelical way to their work, especially politics. This seems to be a complete contradiction of what Vatican II envisioned for the laity, not so much “churchy” type ministries in the confines of the institution, but out there in the world and in politics. But the last 50 years has seen the clericalization of the laity into churchy things and the laicization of the clergy into things of the laity.

  5. Pope Francis, the “pope of hope”
    Just who we needed to hit the breaks, spin the car around, out of reverse and into drive. No longer driving hell bent in reverse using the rear view mirror.

    IMO I think Pope Francis is walking softly until B16 passes away then he can really let us know what he thinks. We’re just getting the appetizers now, wait for the entree.

  6. Re #10. I see many deeply committed Catholic politicians like Nancy Pelosi who have spent their careers working tirelessly on behalf of the poor and the helpless. Hasn’t Pope Francis proclaimed this to be the hallmark of his papacy? Or do we only recognize the “cafeteria Catholic” politicians who ignore clear Catholic social teachings and focus only on imposing their will on others on issues connected with sex?

  7. Thanks, Glenn – most of Allan’s pontifications are based upon nothing but bluster; not facts.

    If anything, can easily remember any number of significant catholic politicians over the last 50 years….Allan won’t agree because these folks, in one way or another, don’t meet his *orthodoxy* test.

    To name a few who saw political service as a duty to build up the common good:
    – John F. Kennedy
    – Robert Kennedy
    – Governor of NY, Cuomo
    – Drinan
    – the Daleys of Chicago
    – how about the current catholics sitting at SCOTUS
    – can think of many federal, state, and local catholic politicians who pushed for civil rights in the 1960s; fair housing, union support; immigration reform; healthcare improvement; poverty reduction; improving education; advocating for peace via arms reductions; etc.

    My experience with catholic universities especially those run by religious communities today indicate that they see their role as educating and inspiring young catholics to serve the common good through various careers – you see many volunteer and service organizations (like mini-Peace Corps groups) e.g. Jesuit Service Corps; Vincentian Service Volunteers; etc. The Jesuits and others have the educational corp where new teachers work in poor or disadvantaged schools/neighborhoods for a couple of years; the Cristo Rey high schools; foreign mission volunteer groups (Maryknoll). Some of these folks eventually move to non-profits and get involved in local politics.

    If anything, would say that the focus of the words of Francis are rather upon some US bishops who appear to have forgotten their role as teachers and become *partisan politicians* – think Fortnight for Freedom; a few who have called the current president Hitler, Stalin, or worse.

    In fact, here is how John Carr sums it up:

    “This essay is not a statement on authority or ability, but a description of how our new Holy Father is leading the church in these challenging times. Francis is reaching out to those he serves, defending the poor, proclaiming the Gospel with clarity and confidence, applying it to our everyday challenges and warning us against our selfishness and sinfulness. In one telling example, Francis condemned those who see the sacraments as a reward for good behavior, not a channel of God’s grace, insisting that those who come for baptism and marriage should be welcomed, not judged. This is a pope who comes across as very much a “holy father,” a very smart, caring and simple pastor of a global parish who teaches us every day by what he says and does. He is challenging all of us to live out the “good news” of Jesus Christ with enthusiasm.”

    Would suggest that Allan’s caricatures only seeks to divide, label, and be more self-referential.

  8. “The faith has been obscured for too long by scandal, politics, and reactionary fear.” Like the anti-gay and anti-liberation-theology politics and fear of the present pope and his fellow bishops in Latin America?

    “It’s time to unleash the presence of Christ upon the world, and the signs are that this is indeed Pope Francis’ primary agenda.”” It was also the primary agenda of his predecessors. The devil is in the details, and we await signs that Francis really wants collegiality and dialogue. Note that it’s business as usual at the CDF under his rule, no sign of any change coming there.

  9. Le Figaro says the pope is thinking of a permanent synod to share church governance — first I’ve heard of this, but if true it’s great news.

    1. @Joe O’Leary – comment #18:

      While I like the idea of a “permanent synod”, a Vatican government with two houses of parliament could be doubly difficult to manage. I cannot see how a “lower house” of bishops and archbishops could be accountable to priests, deacons, and the laity if Rome continues to appoint all bishops directly. I would hope that a shift to the local election of bishops (including lay electors) would accompany the formation of a permanent synod.

      If Pope Francis wishes to modernize the Curia in the likeness of the postmodern House of Lords, then I do hope that Pope Francis changes the role of a cardinal from “prince of the Church” to something akin to a life peerage which does not confer any more ecclesiastical power than already held by an archbishop. It’d be very welcome if the permanent synod had some say in the appointment of cardinals, but I don’t foresee any Pope, even Pope Francis, handing full control of the selection of the leaders of major sees and curial officials to the bishop-leader of the synod. In other words, don’t expect a bishop-leader to exercise unilateral prime minister powers to appoint life peerages with a papal rubber stamp, similar to the ruling party/royal assent process in the UK.

      As a traditionalist, I still have grave reservations about the democratization of episcopal selection. I wonder if my “minority party” will quite frequently be ignored or suppressed. I am convinced, though, that Pope Francis’s reforms, should they arrive and whatever they are, will have a space for the old believers. However, individual participation in the demos also demands acceptance of the democratic decision.

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