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Issue 16 – Easter 2023


Blue Light

On Pope Francis's legacy.


Ten years ago, Jorge Bergoglio was raised to the Chair of Saint Peter on March 13, two weeks after the abdication of his predecessor. Benedict XVI had been the first pope to resign his office since Gregory XII, whose demission ended the Great Western Schism at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The unusual circumstances under which his current papacy began (to say nothing of the continued presence of Benedict himself within the walls of the Vatican, wearing white and styling himself “Pope Emeritus”) lent a quality of uncertainty to Pope Francis’s reign.

This feeling has persisted, for reasons that are understandable. Prior to his election, he had been neither a distinguished theologian, as both Benedict and John Paul II had been, nor (like virtually every other modern pope from Pius IX until Paul VI) a member of the Curia. Little was known of him save that he had been metropolitan of an archdiocese that does not factor much into the considerations of Anglophone Catholics. Rumors offered conflicting impressions: that he was a Perónist, that he had been soft on liberation theology, that he had obstructed the implementation of Summorum pontificum in his territory, that he had read the authorized biography of Archbishop Lefebvre—twice. His papacy began as a white wall—solid, irremovable, opaque—upon which the fancies of Catholics and secular observers alike could be projected via magic lantern.

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About the author

Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp.