Pope Francis represents a lot of firsts. The first pope from the Americas. The first Argentinean pope. The first Francis. The first Jesuit. First non-European pope in the modern Church. He could also be the first step in a process of modernization and outreach that the church desperately needs. Before conclave to elect the new pope began, the cardinals outlined three areas of reform that needed to come to the Vatican:
- Greater internal and external transparency
- Greater accountability
- Greater efficiency
Reform in these three areas could greatly help the church combat the difficulties it is facing, including the clerical sex-abuse scandal and growing financial corruption. There is already indication that he could soon begin bringing some reform to the Vatican. Usually, a new pope will quickly reconfirm those who headed Vatican departments under the previous pontiff and then take his time ushering in his new staff. Sometimes it can take months, even a year or more, before a new pope has turned over all the departments. Francis has not followed this path. Instead, he has said that Vatican department heads will temporarily keep their positions, but he is not reappointing anyone at this time. He said he would like to take time to pray, reflect and talk before making permanent nominations or confirmations. At a press conference on Saturday, Francis told reporters some Cardinals had suggested he take the name Adrian, for Pope Adrian VI, who was a great reformer in his time. This also suggests he may have been elected by the Cardinals specifically to reform the church. During his tenure as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis was known and revered for his humility and his adherence to a simple lifestyle. He elected not to live in the archbishop’s palace and instead lived in a small apartment. He gave up his chauffeur and his cook and instead took public transportation and cooked his own meals. He was also known for modernizing the church in Argentina. In the short time that has passed since his nomination as pope, Francis has already shown himself to be unique and austere, preferring a Vatican sedan to the papal limousine and choosing to keep his garments simple and unadorned. He prefers to address the public in an open, off-the-cuff manner, rather than reciting lengthy, pre-written speeches. He also tries to interact with the public as much as possible, or as much as his security detail will allow. This is a sharp contrast from his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who seemed to love the pomp and pageantry of the church. However, this freshness and accessibility could be just what the church needs, to reconnect the church leadership with the public.