Controversial Pope Francis marks five years at helm of Catholic Church

Back to results

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, an Argentine, was elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church five years ago at the age of 76. As Pope Francis he has resurrected several themes of Latin America’s liberation theology movement, becoming the so-called people’s pope but not the prelates’ pope.

During a visit to Bolivia in 2015, he described unbridled capitalism as the “dung of the devil,” condemned the impoverishment of developing countries by the world economic order and apologized for the church’s treatment of native Americans. His departure from some Church precepts on family and social issues has roiled the mainly conservative Catholic hierarchy. In Sep 2016 four cardinals issued a formal correction of views the pope had expressed in his Amoris Laetitia. In Sep 2017, more than 60 Catholic scholars signed a document that alleged that Pope Francis had committed seven heresies regarding his teachings on divorce and remarriage and moral relativism. For conservatives, the pontiff’s announcement in 2015 that priests around the world would be allowed to forgive the “sin of abortion” during a “year of mercy” from Dec 8, 2015, ranked as virtually unforgivable. The pope did hew to Catholic dictates when he described birth control as a sin, but stepped back from it with the view that Catholics need not reproduce “like rabbits.” The liberation theology movement gained strength in Latin America during the 1970s, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Because of their insistence that ministry should include involvement in the political struggle of the poor against wealthy elites, liberation theologians were often criticized inside and outside the Catholic Church as naive purveyors of Marxism and advocates of leftist social activism. By the 1990s the Vatican, under Pope John Paul II, had begun to curb the movement’s influence through the appointment of conservative prelates in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America. Prior to the 2013 papal conclave, Pope Francis had served as both archbishop and cardinal in Argentina for more than 12 years. He was the first citizen from the Americas, the first non-European and first Jesuit priest to be named pope.

Pope Francis (

Unbridled capitalism is the 'dung of the devil', says Pope Francis (Reuters/Guardian Jul 2015)


Date written/update: 2018-01-31