Francis knows that any reform must start in the hearts of his collaborators or all the administrative tinkering in the world will never succeed. He has called out “careerism” in the clergy and gone so far as to describe the Vatican court as the “leprosy of the papacy.” He has abolished the honorific title of “monsignor” and routinely encourages his co-workers to go out to the people on the periphery, to those who have been forgotten. He models this behavior at his weekly audiences and during parish visits.
Substantively, the pope has made one major change that has set teeth chattering in the Vatican’s offices: Last month, he appointed Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, a former rugby player not adverse to public combat, to lead the newly formed Secretariat for the Economy. This new body will have dominion over all the financial, economic and administrative affairs of the Vatican. The office seems to occupy the same plane of power as the Secretariat of State, marking a critical change at the heart of the Holy See’s organizational structure. To execute this change, Pope Francis couldn’t have chosen a churchman better versed in economics, culture or faith than Cardinal Pell. I am told it is the first of many such bold moves.
As Pope Francis begins his second year, it is difficult to forecast where this unpredictable pontiff is headed. But it is safe to assume that pastoral mercy, an insistence on elevating the forgotten, and an aversion to rigidity will distinguish the days to come””to say nothing of that tiny Ford Focus.