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Pope Francis blesses the crowd during his general audience at St Peter's square on November 27, 2013 at the Vatican.
Pope Francis continues to surprise Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his frank and unconventional ways. On Tuesday, the Pope released his theological manifesto, criticizing the “tyranny” of unchecked capitalism and calling for big changes in the Roman Catholic Church.
The document, known as Evangelii Gaudium in Latin, or The Joy of the Gospel, brings together much of what the Pope has been preaching and practicing over the last eight months of his papacy. It urges the church to end its obsession with culture war issues and move away from a focus on doctrine, towards one of joyful welcome in a bid to draw in the world’s 1.5 billion believers.
In the statement, the Pope denounced the global financial system “where the powerful feed upon the powerless” and reminded everyone “that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.”
He also decried the church’s “obsession” with rules saying, “Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives.”
Mostly, the document, which is the first written entirely by Pope Francis, argues that the Catholic church shouldn’t be afraid to get its hands dirty as it offers solace and mercy to society’s outcasts. Francis didn't mention specific reforms, but suggested the possibility of changes at the very top of the church.
How radical is this manifesto? How likely is it to lead to actual change in the church?
Juan Martinez, PhD, Vice Provost at Fuller Theological Seminary
Jeff Dietrich, writer for the Catholic Agitator and advocate with LA Catholic Worker, an activist organization that feeds, shelters, clothes, and seeks justice for the homeless