So how does Pope Francis’ record look so far? He remains popular and scandal-free. When secret recordings of the pope discussing Vatican finances in July 2013 leaked, he sounded as committed to reform in private as he does in public, calling the Holy See’s costs “out of control.” Yet it remains an open question whether the Curia will implement his ambitious reforms, such as improving Vatican accounting or eliminating unnecessary positions. The Vatican bank also changes at a glacial pace, and it will take years to judge whether transparency efforts pay off.
The most immediate change comes from how Francis’ style has had an influence on everyone who works within the Vatican’s walls. Rather than live in the Apostolic Palace, Francis chose to live in a guesthouse. This makes him physically and spiritually closer to his employees and visitors. He also left behind fancier vestments and speaks plainly and directly to his subjects.
Under Francis, the Vatican looks less like a medieval court and more like a responsive government. He has placed a bishop exclusively in charge of helping the homeless near the Vatican. He ordered the installation of showers and bathrooms for the homeless, brought in refugee families to live at the Vatican, and welcomed the homeless for private tours. The pope has also publicly criticized the Vatican for “spiritual Alzheimer’s.”