Article by: Ysabel Ayala
Photographs collated by: Jong Hyun Lee
On March 9, 2013, the Catholic Church was given a breath of fresh air in the name of Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis. Named Time’s person of the year after only a single year in the papacy, Pope Francis has encouraged change in the public’s perception of the Catholic Church. Dubbed “The People’s Pope” and “The New World Pope”, Pope Francis infused a sense of modernity into Catholic conventions, landing him on the cover of not only Time magazine, but also The New Yorker, Rolling Stone and The Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine. His bringing the church “into the streets”, tolerant views on homosexuality, and constant outreach to atheists is just few of Pope Francis’ hallmark achievements. Many Catholics see Francis as a Pope who is willing to take modern day issues in stride, and with grace.
Francis is also popular. He topped the Facebook Worldwide Trending List last December. The term “The Francis Effect” was coined to describe his benevolent deeds in social welfare. The Pope sent shockwaves through social media last year by washing the feet of Muslim prisoners, including women, and embracing a man covered in tumors. His stance on women’s rights, homosexuality, and birth control – three highly contentious issues in today’s Church – is perhaps the most liberal of any Pope, ever. Francis has urged the Church to “forget its finery”, return to the Christian teachings of humility and sacrifice, and to serve as a “field hospital for this sin-sick world.” However, the words spoken by “The Pope for the Poor” during his first year have had little effect on the Church’s wider actions, and critics point out that Francis has yet to properly address sexual abuse scandals that have cropped up in the Church over the last few decades.
Here in the Philippines, the Catholic Church remains strong and steadfast to tradition. While Pope Francis’ personal philosophy is unlikely to spark an all-out revolution in the Philippine Catholic Church, perhaps Francis’ recent appointment of Filipino Orlando Quevedo as Cardinal will lead to a much-needed “Francis Effect” here at home.
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