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Overview of Pope Francis’ leadership style

ON THE WAY WITH POPE FRANCIS. Our Destination: A Renewed Church. John Thornhill. St Paulís Publications. Strathfield. NSW. 2014. 

Reviewed by Barbara Flynn

On the Way with Pope FrancisFR John Thornhill, Marist priest and respected theologian, gives an interpretation in 68 pages of the pastoral approach he believes Pope Francis is adopting in his leadership of the Catholic Church.

Fr Thornhill explains that issues considered in four core documents from the Second Vatican Council are foundational in the Pope’s pastoral approach.

An important pastoral perspective which Fr Thornhill highlights is that the Christian faithful would recognise the relationship between the on-going actuality of the Christ-event and the Gospel.

This dialogue “of fundamental importance is that the mystery of God’s eternal purpose is revealed in Christ who enters into relationship with human experience along the paths of history”.

The joy and relevance of the Gospel to the lives of Catholics, Fr Thornhill emphasises from the Pope’s pastoral principles, must be rediscovered and understood from participation in the liturgy if they are to come to realise the mystery of God’s loving designs for the human family.

Another process which Pope Francis regards as essential to vitality and renewal within the Church is genuine patient consultation and shared discernment within the Church including the people of God, listening and discerning their thoughts, opinions and concerns.

The much-publicised metaphor, “the Church as a field hospital” is central to Pope Francis theology of God as a God of mercy, tenderness, compassion and forgiveness.

The responsibility, to exercise these qualities of Christ, Fr Thornhill highlights, is to be taken seriously by the baptised in their relationships with all people.

Pope Francis’ “way to renewal and revitalisation of the Catholic Church” provides a useful resource for the laity and offers an invitation to renew acquaintance with some documents from the Second Vatican Council concerning in turn the Sacred Liturgy, Divine Revelation and the Church in the Modern World.

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