We are just into the first week of 2018, but this new calendar year is already showing clear signs that this will be a challenging and exciting time for the continuing reforms Pope Francis has been trying to bring to the Vatican and the entire Catholic Church. The 81-year-old pope, who will mark his fifth anniversary as Bishop of Rome in only a few months from now, has a full slate of events over the next twelve months. They promise to form yet another series of decisive moments in his efforts to change the mentality and practice of what it means to be church in the 21st century. The aim of all this papal activity over the next year is to put more flesh on the inspiring, yet skeletal outline and blueprint Francis issued for his pontificate in the 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium
(Joy of the Gospel). “I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation,” Francis wrote in that remarkable document. “The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself,” he stressed, still in the early months of his papal ministry.
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