An encyclical, two book-length interviews, three key speeches by the Pope, will all be out soon. It seems that Pope Francis is eager to tell the world what he thinks, the way he sees the world, and how the world should operate in the post-pandemic era. In the upcoming months, we are going to be somehow submerged by Pope Francis’ publications, perhaps more than ever before in papal history.
First out was the book “Terra Futura” (Future Earth), that the Pope wrote together with Carlo Petrini, who came up with the Slow Food concept in Italy and is an agnostic. He shares with the Pope support for an integral ecology that respects the earth.
On Oct. 3, Pope Francis will sign the encyclical “All Brothers,” so much inspired by St. Francis that the Pope will sign it in Assisi, by the saint’s tomb.
During the week beginning Sep. 21, the Pope will deliver a speech at the United Nations in New York, during the High-Level segment at the General Assembly.
On Oct. 15, the Global Compact for Education will take place. The Pope strongly supports the event and will deliver a speech. On Nov. 22, the event “The Economy of Francesco” will take place virtually: the Pope will deliver a speech for it.
On Dec. 1, finally, another book-length interview with Pope Francis will be out. It is entitled “Let us dream. The path for a better future,” with the journalist Austen Ivereigh.
In the meantime, Pope Francis is outlining his reflections on the world after the pandemic during the catecheses of the general audience on Wednesdays.
Out of the lockdown, Pope Francis has become more vocal. It seems clear that he wants his voice to be heard.
The upcoming encyclical is expected to draw heavily from the Franciscan spirituality of fraternity. In anticipation of its publication, the Franciscan Pietro Messa shared insights that show how the Pope took his inspiration from Saint Francis.
Fraternity will be the glue holding together these other central topics in Pope Francis’ teaching:
• the need to rebuild the economic system and to make it less unfair toward the poorest
• the emphasis on the care for creation that Pope Francis said he understood late
• the help for marginalized people, starting from migrants
• the importance of religions to spread the notion of non-violence
Why is Pope Francis boosting up communication now? Why this sort of informative overload, especially on some issues?
One can make some educated guess.
First of all, the Pope has concluded it is opportune to speak out. The lockdown has allowed deeper reflection because there was a sort of a break from routines. Also, Pope Francis took advantage of the situation to set in order his ideas. His third encyclical comes in the middle of a series of other speeches. This kind of texts will characterize his pontificate, in the end.
Secondly, Pope Francis is carrying forward his idea of reform. In the latest issue of the Jesuit-run magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Antonio Spadaro explained that the Pope’s reform is above all spiritual and only after structural.
There is no plan to reform the structures, which is why their reform (like the Curia reform) is stalled or delayed. Pope Francis has instead a plan to reform the mentality. The pandemic made room to accelerate this process. Thus, Pope Francis dedicates more time to external communication, especially with the so-called far away people. According to Pope Francis, the Church must build bridges and dialogue with modernity.
Fr. Spadaro’s article also poses the question of whether the pontificate’s driving force has been exhausted or not. Fr. Spadaro says no, it has not been exhausted, and if anyone thinks otherwise he has not understood the reform’s real meaning.
The driving force might not be exhausted, but we are experiencing a change in the pontificate’s pace. Without international trips to mark cycles of activity, Pope Francis can entirely focus on the Vatican and how it must communicate.
On the one hand, Pope Francis needs to explain himself, and he does so as much as possible. He mostly chooses less formal but more pervasive channels. On the other hand, Pope Francis’s need to communicate overshadows a series of decisions he has recently made.
Just a few people are commenting on the new general secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, who came in June. And just a few remember the appointment of the number 2 of the Secretariat for the Economy. Both of them are laypeople, both of them have a past life as managers. Few people have analyzed the impact of these new appointments.
The Pope also reshuffled the membership of the Council for the Economy. Pope Francis is also applying the (still non written) rule of limiting Vatican positions to 5-year terms, renewable just once. Even the Pope’s secretaries have been subjected to this norm.
In the end, despite these decisions, the future appears to be uncertain. The Council of Cardinals has not been holding meetings since the outbreak of the pandemic.
This is the general background for the rumor mill. There is speculation that even the top ranks of the Vatican Secretariat of State might change soon. Rumor says that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, might be transferred to a diocese. At the moment, Cardinal Parolin is in the middle of his second 5-year term as Secretary of State.
Other rumors point to Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican “foreign minister,” taking the position of prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, thus leaving the slot of the head of relations with the States empty. This is just gossip, and it comes from the fact that we live in uncertain times. However, in these uncertain times, Pope Francis’ words and ideas have taken center stage, displacing considerations on structural reforms. The debate on the reform is not anymore pivoted on the Curia reform, as it was in the beginning. Now, the discussion switched to the Pope’s ideas, and not the Pope’s government.
We do not know how much this shift was intentional. Indeed, it is food for thought.