Francis will ′lead the church in a very different way′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 14.03.2013
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Francis will 'lead the church in a very different way'

Does the son of an Italian railway worker and Catholicism's first non-European pope in centuries have what it takes to lead the Church forward? DW spoke with Vatican correspondent Angela Ambrogetti.

DW: We know that Pope Francis, trained as a chemist, is the son of an Italian railway worker, and is the first non-European pope of the modern era, does he have what it takes to lead the Church forward?  

Angela Ambrogetti: He will probably lead the Church in a very different way - this is the idea for a new necessity for evangelicalism and the social doctrine of the Church. These are two challenges for the Church for the next century, and I think this will be the profile of Francis.

At 76, Francis is relatively old. He is being described as a transitional pope, rather than a pope for the long haul, do you agree?

Probably in certain ways. Transitional doesn't mean just waiting for the next one, but moving the Church from one period to another. I think Ratzinger created the fundamental ideas for the next period of the Church, and a new way to bring the papacy and the gospels to society. Now Francis can find that new way to bring it to society.

Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by L'Osservatore Romano/Getty Images

Some have called Pope Francis a transitional leader

There has been pressure from Church leaders from around the world to decentralize the Church's structure away from Rome and to give more say to leaders from areas where Catholicism is increasing, such as Latin America and Africa. By electing a Latin American, have they nipped that decentralization trend in the bud?

This is very difficult to say, I think the general rule for Latin America, and America in general, is the new energy that is a necessity for the Church for the new evangelization. In Europe, we have some very ancient ideas, ancient ways, and with the people from South America and North America, we can welcome a new kind of energy for evangelization. This will probably be the real challenge for Pope Francis.

He's promised a new look for the Catholic Church, do you think he can he deliver?

It's difficult to give an opinion after so few hours, but we will need to focus on what Pope Francis is going to do in the next few months. The first month is the most important to understand what the new look will be, or even if there will be a new look in the Church.   

Will Pope Francis be able to radically change the Church's conservative viewpoint on issues such as gay marriage, homosexual couples adopting children, ordination of women priests, celibacy for priests and abortion?

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio poses in this undated handout photo courtesy of Clarin. Photo: REUTERS/Clarin/Handout

Bergoglio was ordained a priest in 1969

No. Absolutely not.  The teaching of the Church is just one and Cardinal Bergoglio has been very clear during about gay marriage and so on during his life. I think that's the idea, the doctrine and the teaching of the Church is the same. He can only change how it is talked about.

Pope Francis has been described as a conformist Jesuit. How will such a conservative pope tackle the sexual abuse crisis that continues to plague the Catholic Church?

He is not a conservative, he is a Catholic. I want to explain. He is absolutely not conservative, he is a bishop, he is a priest and he helps the poor, he is human and he is orthodox - a real Catholic. He's not progressive, he's not conservative - it's a journalistic way to mock the reality of the Church now. Probably in the Vatican conclave there is this kind of division.

The new pope is the first leader to choose the name Francis, after the St. Francis of Assisi, a humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor at the expense of his own wealth. We saw this when Pope Francis stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday night dressed in the non-traditional papal robes, and then the day after his election when he went to the hotel where the conclave were staying to pick up his things. How significant is his name to the direction he wants to take the Catholic Church?

Fresco of Cimabue, from 1278 in Sacro Convento in Assisi Photo: EPA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

St. Francis of Assisi gave away his wealth to the poor and was known for his love of animals

Cardinal Bergoglio is used to being near to the poor, used to being very humble and used to being very Franciscan, and also he's a Jesuit, so he just wants to continue his life. I think it's all just a sign of simplicity.

People are starting to talk about Pope Francis' priesthood in Argentina, especially concerns with his relation to the military dictatorship in the 1970s and early 1980s, are people talking about this in Rome?

This is gossip because he is the one who decided to organize a reformation of the Church in Argentina, so it's exactly the contrary. He tried to purify the Catholic Church in Argentina, so people are gossiping about him, because he made himself clear about some of the problems within the Catholic Church in Argentina.

Many critics have described Emeritus Pope Benedict, Pope Francis' predecessor, as a poor manager of everyday business who left the Curia, the Church's governing body in mess after his troubled eight-year reign. What direction does the new pope need to take the Church?

He'll probably reorganize something in the Curia, but this is normal with every change of Pope. But I don't see the situation in the curia being so terrifying. The idea that there is a big fight in the Church, a big fight in the Curia, that's out journalistic gossip - it's not the reality.

Angela Ambrogetti is a Vatican correspondent, analyst, and author of many articles about the Holy See and a number of popes.

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