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World

Opinion: Pope's message is a wake-up call

After eight months in office, Pope Francis has issued his first apostolic exhortation, or the key program for his papacy. His message is a wake-up call, DW's Stefan Dege says.

His mission statement says it all: Pope Francis is campaigning for "new paths" and "creative methods" in proclaiming and propagating the faith. He professed empathy for a Church that is "bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets" rather than a Catholic Church that is "unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security." He questioned the absoluteness of the papacy and the Curia. He denounced the causes for poverty, injustice and violence in the world.

Stefan Dege Photo: DW

Stefan Dege heads DW's Religion and Society section

Eight months have passed since his election. A visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa - overcrowded with African refugees, washing and kissing the feet of young prison inmates, his Syrian peace plan: Pope Francis says it all with symbolic gestures and expressive speeches. Now, he has given his message a conceptual and theological fundament. Francis' message is directed inward and outward, his actions and his writings match. He has set the milestones for his papacy.

Francis describes his visions of the church of the future. He wants fundamental reform hand-in-hand with a new moral alignment. Francis' proposals are bound to cause a stir in the Church. It may even be a crucial test for the Church before his dream becomes reality. But it's not about right or wrong, it's about the Church's claim to moral authority and legitimacy. In a rapidly changing world, the Church should be close to the people and not a pompous end in and of itself. Francis is a revolutionary. He is aware of the state his Church is in and its rapid loss of relevance, in particular in western countries. He names the causes and signals the antidote.

His writings are more than mere navel-gazing. By pointing out the suffering in the world - unjust economic systems, poverty and violence - and making socio-revolutionary demands, he has repositioned the Church. He brings it back onto the global political stage, equipped with moral strength. Francis envisions a merciful, humble, involved and humane Church that follows in the tradition of Christ. It is not surprising that Pope Francis even questions his own infallibility.

Francis' "Joy of the Gospel" is a wake-up call for reforms in the Roman-Catholic Church and for a better world. It encourages people to join in.

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