Pope Francis at 10 years: Five most noteworthy moments of his papacy

Pope Francis waves to faithful at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican, Wednesday, March 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) Andrew Medichini/AP

Pope Francis at 10 years: Five most noteworthy moments of his papacy

Jeremiah Poff

March 14, 04:00 AM March 14, 04:00 AM

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Pope Francis celebrated the 10th anniversary of his election as pope Monday, marking a decade of controversial statements, historic visits, and changes to the day-to-day operations of the Catholic Church.

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentinian native was elected pope on March 13, 2013, by the members of the College of Cardinals following the shocking resignation of his predecessor Benedict XVI. Since then, Francis has made numerous statements that indicated a softening attitude toward homosexuality, urged peace between nations, responded to the ongoing scandal of clerical sexual abuse, and modified the Catholic Church’s documents on the death penalty and the celebration of the Mass.


Here are the five most noteworthy moments of Francis’s 10-year reign as head of the Catholic Church.

‘Who am I to judge?’

Shortly after his election, Francis made international headlines for a comment about homosexual clergy while on a flight back to Rome from Brazil, where he had presided over World Youth Day, a triennial event that draws young Catholics from around the world.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told a reporter who asked him about his opinion about homosexual men in the ranks of the Catholic clergy.

The Catholic Church has always held that homosexual acts are grave sins that are “intrinsically disordered” and that people who have experienced sexual attraction toward people of the same sex are called to live chastely.

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2015 apostolic visit to the United States

As pope, Francis has maintained a rigorous travel schedule that has seen him visit some 60 different countries over 10 years. In 2015, Francis visited the United States and presided over the first canonization, the declaration of a new saint, ever held on U.S. soil. The pope declared Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Spanish missionary, a saint during a Mass held on the campus of the Catholic University of America.

The pope also addressed a joint session of the 114th Congress, a first for a pope, met with then-President Barack Obama at the White House, and celebrated Mass in front of thousands of U.S. Catholics on the streets of Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, another triennial Catholic celebration.

Blessing an empty St. Peter’s Square

On March 27, 2020, Francis delivered a special “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, “to the city and the world” following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The blessing is normally only done on Christmas and Easter or following the election of a new pope.

The image of the pope holding up a golden monstrance to an empty St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican while rain poured down on the Eternal City has proved to be one of the most iconic moments of Francis’s pontificate and stark reminder of the lockdowns during the pandemic.

Clergy sexual abuse crisis

The clerical sex abuse crisis has continued to roil the Catholic Church throughout Francis’s reign.

In 2018, Francis accepted the resignation of Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., from membership within the College of Cardinals after allegations surfaced that he had molested a 16-year-old boy while serving as a priest at a New York parish. McCarrick was later defrocked and faces criminal sexual abuse charges in Massachusetts.

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Francis has faced substantial criticism for his response to clerical sex abuse during his years as pope. In 2021, he thanked journalists for “helping [the church] not to sweep it under the carpet and for the voice you have given to the abuse victims.”

NATO, Ukraine, and world conflicts

In the immediate days following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Francis made headlines by visiting the Russian Embassy in Rome and has repeatedly called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

In subsequent months, the pope has criticized NATO for “barking at Russia’s gate” for pushing for Ukraine’s membership in the military alliance while condemning the Russian invasion.

“I have no way of telling whether [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] rage has been provoked, but I suspect it was maybe facilitated by the West’s attitude,” the pope said at the time.

The pope has repeatedly urged Putin to end the conflict and called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to negotiate with Russia to achieve peace.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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