This Tuesday, Pope Francis issued the first Apostolic Exhortation since he became the head of the Roman Catholic Church in March this same year. The document, entitled Evangelii Gaudium and translated into English as “The Joy of the Gospel” is a 224-page piece which main topic is how to spread the Gospel today. It poses several questions for Catholics all around the world and, according to Pope Francis himself, it is aimed at any person of faith, not just the heads of the Church. From the main topic of spreading God’s words spring several other ones such as the relations between faith, business and politics, the topics of peace and social justice, the role of women in the church and the relationship between different religions. All of these are addressed in the fresh and direct manner that has come to characterise the new Pope and his revolutionary ideas. The issues raised recognise the changes which have taken place in the world and the Church’s need to keep up with them.
Against the Status Quo
Pope Francis touches on several topics in The Joy of the Gospel, outlining the issues on which he desires to focus his pontificate and calling for a reform of the Church’s vision and the way it is structured. He added that the Exhortation should have an important repercussion and stated that the aim towards which all Catholics should work is bringing the Church closer to the people, closer to those in need, and free it from customs which are not directly related to what the Gospel preaches (even if they have been carried out for centuries). The Pope further insisted in making the sacraments available to all, not as a prize but as a medicine for the weak, and in preaching by example.
The Consumer Society
Pope Francis spoke about the consequences of the consumer society we now live in and how it leaves no room for thoughts about the other. He referred to the system as intrinsically unjust, and denounced the domination of the marketplace. The Pope also used the metaphor of “globalisation of the indifference” to refer to the consequences that the consumer society has had in today’s world and committed himself to the idea of a Church which is bruised and dirty because it is in the streets helping those who need it most.
Women and the Church
Regarding women, the Pope called for a larger presence of the female gender in the Church. He highlighted that women should be part of the decision making processes, even if they cannot be ordinated as priests. Regarding abortion, Pope Francis stood firm behind the Church’s position, defending human life, but he did question whether the Church had provided adequate support to single mothers or other women in difficult positions for whom abortion seems like the only option.