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Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope and the first from the Americas, offers a challenge to his church. Can he bring about significant change? Should he?
Garry Wills, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, argues provocatively that, in fact, the history of the church throughout is a history of change. Yet the immutability of the church as the oldest institution in Western civilization, one that commands the respect of all people of faith, often remains unquestioned, even fetishized. In this brilliant and incisive study, Wills describes the deep and serious changes that have taken place in the church or are in the process of occurring. These include the change from Latin, the growth and withering of the ecclesiastical monarchy, the abandonment of biblical literalism, the assertion and nonassertion of infallibility, and the erosion of church patriarchy. In such developments we see the living church adapting itself to the new historical circumstances.
As Wills contends, it is only by examining the history of the church that we can understand Pope Francis's and the church's challenges. As history shows, any changes that meet these challenges will have impact only if the church, the people of God, supports them. In reading the church's history, Wills heralds the challenge that Pope Francis offers the church: its ability to change and to undertake new spiritual adventures, making it a poor church for the poor, a church of mercy for all sinners, after the example of Jesus.
'To be faithful, to be creative, we need to be able to change.' Pope Francis
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