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Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.

Pope Francis determined to reform church

Pope Francis determined to reform church

Pope Francis waves on his arrival at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican for his weekly general audience on Sept. 9. (Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP)

Published: September 12, 2018 10:20 AM GMT
Anger and resistance have grown over reforms introduced by Pope Francis which have hit the headlines in recent weeks

Pope Francis, the first South American to become pope, is from Argentina. He was born of migrant Italian parents and is the most liked and popular pope in modern times.

He is seen as the great hope and light of the people of God. People welcome his feelings of compassion and understanding and action for the poor, the excluded and marginalized.

Pope Francis has taken a stand with them and has a strong solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse and human trafficking. 

He established an advisory group of eight trusted cardinals and bishops to advise him how to combat child abuse in the church. He has fired priests and bishops involved with covering up child abuse. He said he will do much more.

The commitment to justice and peace is a top priority for him as is the protection of the environment and his concern for climate change as seen in his encyclical Laudato si'.

He welcomes gay people. While Pope Benedict XVI incorrectly declared that homosexuality was a human disorder and evil, Pope Francis declared a different belief, attitude and teaching and welcomes members of the LGBT community to the Vatican.

A gay man from Chile was invited to the Vatican and Francis told him, "You know, Juan Carlos, that does not matter. God made you like this. God loves you like this. The pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say."

Pope Francis told the media during an interview: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

He meets victims of abuse frequently and speaks directly in friendly conversation, listening and discussing issues with them. 

He has denounced human trafficking as a crime against humanity — a terrible humiliation of those victimized — and likened it to slavery. 

The pope has also gone to prisons and washed the feet of prisoners including Muslims and women's feet, an unheard of practice.

After he was elected in March 2013, he adopted a simple life without servants, living in a small apartment in the Vatican guesthouse and refusing to live in the papal palace or ride in limousines, preferring to walk or ride in small cars.

He dresses simply and has none of the pomp and ceremony and ornate robes of his predecessors. He carries his own bag a lot and has called on bishops and archbishops to live frugally.

Pope Francis demanded a major reform of the corruption-riddled Vatican Bank. His teaching and practice have alarmed many traditionalists and conservative bishops and laity who have resisted the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

They are now resisting his reforms and positive change. He has simplified the marriage annulment procedure in the church by removing the bureaucratic delays and costs. He instructed priests to forgive women who have had an abortion.

Mercy, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, justice and equality represent his call for a just world and a renewal of faith based on the Gospel values of love, togetherness, sacrifice and service for one's neighbor. 

His care and support of migrants is well known and he has called on every parish in Europe to give them a welcome.

All of these have angered some conservatives around the world, especially in the United States where some bishops and theologians have called Pope Francis a heretic for allowing divorced people to receive communion.

The capitalist Catholic elites took strong offense when Francis denounced the evils of liberal capitalism that was causing poverty as "the idolatry of money."

When he visited the United States and the Mexican border and spoke against building walls, it was seen as criticism of President Donald Trump. 

His support for Barack Obama in bringing Cuba into the diplomatic fold once again was offensive to many U.S. conservatives. Besides, he has announced that the death penalty is "inadmissible."

Perhaps his most ardent enemies and critics are in the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the "curia," and their friends around the world whom he denounced in December 2014.

He described 15 "diseases" that the bureaucracy suffered from, including spiritual Alzheimer's disease, rivalry and vainglory, gossip and back-biting, hoarding material goods and the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power, and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others, even in newspapers and magazines.

Ever since, anger and resistance at his reforms have grown until they hit the headlines recently with accusations that Pope Francis knew about and did not act on allegations against the influential American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick some years ago.

After Pope Francis' successful pastoral visit to Ireland in August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former papal ambassador to Washington, published a letter accusing Pope Francis and other Vatican officials of knowing about the sexual abuse committed by McCarrick and doing nothing about it.

Archbishop Vigano himself has a murky track record. According to documents, it has been revealed that Archbishop Vigano, then papal nuncio, ordered an end to ongoing investigations into allegations against Archbishop John Nienstedt of the archdioceses of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2014. Nienstedt resigned a year later.

When McCarrick refused to obey and respect the restrictions placed on him, he was ordered to step down from priestly ministry. 

Pope Francis has refused to reply to the baseless allegations, unsubstantiated byArchbishop Vigano. They are likely part of the resistance and opposition by U.S. bishops to the reforms of Pope Francis. 

Archbishop Vigano's letter may be a "pre-emptive strike" by the U.S. opposition bishops to discredit Pope Francis out of fear they may be called to Rome to resign in response to the massive cover-up of child abuse against more than 1,000 children by 300 priests in Pennsylvania. That they must answer for and will have to resign or be fired.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sexual abuse.

UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia