Coming after the tenure of Pope Benedict XVI, defined by conservatism and scandal rocking the Vatican, Pope Francis’ appointment to head the Catholic Church represents a modern shift for many both inside and outside the church.
Some say Pope Francis' personable demeanor and simple style show that he practices the doctrine he preaches. Here are some of the most significant changes made under the new papacy, so you can decide if you agree:
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Pope Francis chose to continue living in the Casa Santa Marta, a modern guesthouse where cardinals live during the papal conclave, shunning the pope’s traditional third-floor residence in the Apostolic Palace. The cross he keeps around his neck is the same he wore when he was Cardinal of Buenos Aires, not the gold cross of Pope Benedict. Pope Francis also wore his black shoes from Buenos Aires when he was elected Pope, rather than the flashy red loafers Pope Benedict preferred.
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What’s in a name?
After being elected pontiff, a fellow Cardinal said to Pope Francis, “Don’t forget the poor.” The pope chose his name, "Franciscum" in Latin, to honor St. Francis of Assisi, an Italian monk who founded the Franciscan order of the Christian church and emphasized helping the poor. The teachings of St. Francis inspired St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Franciscan order, from which Pope Francis hails.
Pope Francis' first remarks in his new position also reflected his focus on the have-nots: "Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor."
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The first pope to come from South America, Pope Francis traveled made his first international trip back to the continent, visiting Brazil. Pope Francis decided against riding behind the popemobile's bulletproof glass, changing his planned itinerary on a whim to better connect with the crowds gathered to see him in Rio de Janeiro’s Varginha Favela.
There, he spoke to the youth about corruption and how a nation with inequality “impoverishes itself” — concerns at the heart of recent protests in Brazil.
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Pope Francis organized a Pontifical Commission with an indefinite remit to report on the practices of the Vatican bank (officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion). He issued an executive order empowering the Financial Information Authority, an institution created by Pope Benedict XVI, to help bring the Vatican's finances up to international standards. Pope Francis also accepted the resignation of Slovenia’s two archbishops, the country’s highest ranking representatives of the Catholic Church, as a result of their mishandling church finances.
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Pope Francis called at his inauguration for leaders of different religions to unite against “one of the most dangerous pitfalls of our time — reducing human beings to what they produce and what they consume." He penned his own statement offering good will to Muslims during the month of Ramadan, a personal touch which contrasted with Pope Benedict XVI's unsuccessful attempts at inter-faith diplomacy. “We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship,” Pope Francis said, “especially among people who profess religious belief.”
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Pope Francis was the first pope to ever wash women’s feet in a ceremony outside of Rome, representing an act of humility Jesus performed for his disciples.
Though Pope Francis called for a deeper “theology of women” to better incorporate them in the Church — saying their role “doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework” — he has reaffirmed the Church’s position against women being ordained.
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Gay is OK?
When reporters asked Pope Francis about rumors of a “gay lobby” influencing the Vatican, he responded that “a lobby is never good,” but he had yet to see anyone with a “gay ID card” at the Vatican. Separately, he added, “If a gay person is a person of good will who seeks God, who am I to judge?” While he did not shun the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which considers homosexuals “objectively disordered,” some considered the statement an implicit acceptance of homosexual priests, so long as they do not act on their desires. This marked a clear break from Pope Benedict XVI, who clearly stated: “Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation.”
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Pope Francis issued his first “Motu Proprio,” or personal edict, mandating that any employee of the Vatican City State be subject to established international laws. While the decree refers only to the domestic jurisdiction of the Vatican City State, Vatican employees can be extradited to face trial in other countries. Along with measures to combat economic fraud, terrorism, and other forms of crime, as well as updating the Vatican’s legislation on child abuse, the decree will have implications for the likes of Paolo Gabriele (Pope Benedict’s butler who leaked Vatican documents) and ongoing efforts to confront the child abuse scandals in the church.