ROSARIO, Argentina — The COVID-19 pandemic has absorbed a lot of the Catholic Church’s consideration throughout 2020, and doubtless will proceed to take action in the course of the early months of 2021. However what comes after?
There are just a few points we will count on will dominate Rome’s agenda, significantly if Pope Francis has his manner: the household, reform of the Church’s authorities, and the survival of Christianity within the Center East.
For Church watchers, a lot of the eye throughout Pope Francis’ papacy has been given to “scorching button points,” a pattern set by the Synod of Bishops. When prelates from all over the world met in Rome in 2014 and 2015 to debate the Church’s response to household points, a lot of the media’s consideration was centered on whether or not Pope Francis would supply a gap for civilly remarried Catholics to obtain holy Communion. His 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Pleasure of Love”), supplied a slender opening for that.
To mark the fifth anniversary of “Amoris Laetitia’s” publication this coming March, Pope Francis not too long ago declared that 2021 can be a 12 months devoted to the household, main as much as the tenth World Assembly of Households in Rome in 2022. The pope’s intention, it appears, is to carry the Church’s strategy to household points again into the information cycle — and the middle of parish life.
Throughout the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon area, consideration turned to the query of whether or not the pope would transfer to permit for married males to be ordained to the priesthood and the ordination of girls as deacons. He in the end did neither, and for Pope Francis the synod was not about these “hot-button points,” however about fairly calling the Church to an evangelization effort that may permit the religion to thrive in distant areas that generally see a priest annually.
Many Catholic bishops and laity, significantly in Germany and the U.S., but in addition elsewhere, will proceed to beat these drums on celibacy and ordination of girls as they’ve been doing for many years, however the Argentine pontiff has closed the doorways to each. And there’s nothing that Pope Francis will permit for these points to dominate his agenda in 2021.
But 2021, the eighth 12 months of a papacy most Church-watchers anticipated wouldn’t get this far, could have one other Synod of Bishops, this time centered on the theme of “synodality.”
Whereas “advert intra” the debates that dominated the dialogue had been “West” centered — the reform of the curia, episcopal collegiality, ordination of girls, celibacy, the struggle in opposition to sexual abuse, “advert further” Pope Francis has tried to have interaction broader non secular and social questions, together with decreasing poverty, forging a long-lasting peace on the worldwide degree, combating environmental devastation, and advocating for integration of migrants and refugees. Thus far, he has tended to facet with the United Nations and the European Union greater than with particular person nations on these points.
Removed from being a “transition” 12 months, 2021 will give Pope Francis the chance to cement a number of of the reforms he was elected to perform, together with that of the Roman Curia, the Church’s central authorities, and that of the Church’s strategy to combating clerical sexual abuse.
However it can additionally give him a chance to redirect the Church’s gaze towards a problem expensive and near him, which he started exploring in 2019, throughout his journey to the United Arab Emirates, after which once more in 2020, along with his encyclical letter “Fratelli Tutti”: human fraternity.
He’ll dedicate a few of his power to ending the reform of the Curia, a job that started along with his election in 2014. As South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said as not too long ago as final week on Twitter, “the very fact is that within the consultations earlier than the conclave [that elected Pope Francis] repeated calls had been made for a radical reform of the Church starting on the heart, the Vatican. This is able to then function a mannequin at diocesan and parish ranges.”
On an exterior degree, that reform is predicted within the form of a brand new apostolic structure to be introduced in 2021 that can reorganize the city-state’s forms. If the final eight years are any information, nevertheless, Pope Francis will repeat his name for members of the Curia to endure a extra inside, private conversion, fairly than merely topic them to a mere “personnel reform.”
On the core of Pope Francis’ 2021 agenda will probably be human fraternity, a subject that, like a polyhedron, has many faces and meanings. For the pope, it’s largely a path towards peace: by acknowledging that we’re brothers and sisters, violence in God’s identify turns into unjustifiable. As soon as that concept is ready, it’s doable to start out rebuilding belief in locations comparable to Iraq and Syria, torn by violence perpetrated by ISIS, or in South Sudan, devastated by an on-again, off-again civil struggle.
“The painful occasions that marked humanity’s journey final 12 months, particularly the pandemic, taught us how a lot is critical to take an curiosity in others’ issues and to share their issues,” Pope Francis mentioned throughout his Angelus prayer on Jan. 1, the Vatican-sponsored World Day of Peace. “This perspective represents the trail that results in peace, as a result of it fosters the development of a society based on fraternal relationships.”
Every particular person, he argued, is named to make peace occur day by day, with out letting indifference, rejection, and rivalry prevail.
In few locations on the planet Christians want this concept to succeed greater than Iraq, one of many earliest properties of Christianity, and that at this time has solely an estimated 150,000 devoted left, in accordance with the papal charity Support to the Church in Want. It’s a pointy decline from earlier than the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, when there have been 1.5 million.
With Pope Francis’ solely scheduled journey for 2021 up to now being Iraq, in early March, not solely will “human fraternity” proceed to be a pattern in his ministry, however he’ll carry again consideration towards a area that was as soon as a stronghold of the Catholic Church.
The Son of God was born in what at this time is the Center East, and the apostles walked these lands on their manner towards Rome and the remainder of the world. The “first Christian communities” had been from the Center East, and although their presence could be small in quantity, the pontiff is satisfied they’re a beacon of hope that, God and humanity prepared, will stay lit.
That’s why bringing again hope for peace in a area the place generations of individuals knew nothing however struggle, is the type of “comeback” Pope Francis may be anticipated to push for in 2021.