DW's Klaus Krämer wonders whether Francis - like his processor - may serve as a transitional pope rather than the leader who will lead the Catholic Church down a new path.
DW's religious affairs expert Klaus Krämer
Once again, the old saying holds true: Whoever enters the conclave as a pope leaves it as a cardinal. Those considered favorites to take over as head of the Catholic Church tend to be the men who leave the conclave as cardinals. The same was true this time. It wasn't any of the favorites, but a man of the church known for living a simple life and being committed to humanitarian causes. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the third pope of the new millennium. As his name, the Jesuit has chosen 'Francis.' In his home country he has proved that he knows of the hardship and struggles of the poor. That in itself is already a sign of hope for the Catholics in the favelas, slums, townships and refugee camps around the world. In Latin America, the hopes for a new pope close to the people were particularly strong.
Once again, a conservative pope
The pope is again a conservative, which is not a surprise as both of his successors, over the last 35 years, chose only conservative bishops to become cardinals and join the conclave that votes for a new pope. Francis is unlikely to be the modernizer that many critics of the church are hoping for. The Jesuit has used many opportunities to speak out frankly against social injustice but he also is close to the very conservative Catholic group "Comunione e Liberazione." He is opposed to the "liberation theology" popular in Latin America. Will such a pope question essential tenets of Catholic doctrine?
Can you really congratulate the new pope on his election? The problems and challenges the 76-year-old must face are gigantic: First and foremost, Francis has to regain trust. The sexual child abuse scandals have done serious damage to the Church's reputation and have led - especially in Western countries - to a massive exodus from the church.
A difficult job
Francis urgently has to tackle the long overdue reforms of the Church. One thing is to break the two-class society of priests and laity and to strengthen the position of the latter. Women, who often do the lion's share of work in parishes, deserve more recognition. There also is need for an open dialogue on the pros and cons of celibacy. From a theological perspective, it is the issues of divorcees' place in the Church and the rejection of spouses of different confessions during Communion that need to be tackled. Relations with non-Catholic churches, especially the Protestant ones, need to be reassessed. And inter-religious dialogue needs to be pushed further. The to-do list goes on and on.
But in the Vatican itself, there are also many things that need fixing. The Vatileaks affair over stolen confidential documents, rivalries and tensions behind the scene - all those added to the impression that Pope Benedict XVI was not fully in control.
No, you certainly wouldn't envy God's new chief shepherd of 1.2 billion Catholics.
His age also raises doubts as to whether he will be the man of the future. Rather, there's the impression that, once again, the cardinals have chosen a transitional pope and not a new direction. Maybe in light of the grave problems the church faces, the conclave has missed an opportunity. But then again, sometimes faith can move mountains.
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