New World Pope

Pope Francis and the Future of the Church

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Michael L. Budde
Studies in World Catholicism
  • Eugene, ORu: 
    Cascade Books
    , June
     130 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Michael Budde’s New World Pope: Pope Francis and the Future of the Church is a collection of nine articles that all help in understanding the mind of our current Pope. Much ink has been spilt about the life of Francis I, along with countless details about words he has spoken, his image in the world as a result of his words, and the disagreement people have with him as a result of those words. This book attempts to handle none of those presentations. Instead, this collection—written by varying authors from various fields—suggests that we discover the origin of Francis’ thinking, what inspires him, and the future of the church as a result of his leadership. So, this collection is much less of a biography, and much more of a philosophical exploration of how Francis’ thoughts came to be, and how he continues to change it. This review does not intend on covering every contributor in Budde’s text but rather, will focus on two that sum-up what the other authors do in the text. The eclectic nature of the text, ranging from topics in Ignatian philosophy, Francis in the media, and leadership studies, make it difficult to summarize in a couple paragraphs. Barbara Reid, Sergio Ruben, and Francesca Ambrogetti help to display how Francis’ thinking is setting a tone for the evolving church.

In “Foot Washing: Reflections on the Fourth Gospel and the Exemplary Leadership of Pope Francis," Reid examines the foot washing interpretations found within the fourth Gospel—humble service, role reversal, and the acting out of parable. Reid argues that Francis acts out much like Jesus did in washing feet, not only literally, but also given that Francis understands the symbolic action of performing such an act. When Francis washed the feet of twelve youths in a juvenile facility, he was acting out in a manner of humility, showing his resemblance to Jesus as well as love for everyone. The Pope continues to show this kind of attitude in his daily life by, for example, driving around with the windows down in his car or not riding in the traditional “pope mobile.” Ultimately, Reid concludes that Francis represents the parables of Jesus, and has the ability to see what another person needs, and to put that in front of his own needs, much like how the parables of Jesus are read.

Rubin and Ambrogetti, in “Francis Renovator, Reformer, or Revolutionary? Two Reflections,” draw our attention to how we should view the Pope in light of what the entire world says about what he says and what he does. Important to this conversation is the fact that Francis comes from the end of the world, a region that the rest of the world has no desire in helping or believing in. Both authors focus on why we need to see the Pope as a person who exemplifies renovation, reform, and revolution in our world today. It is argued that Francis is a renovator who has renewed our faith by bringing a new degree of enthusiasm to the Gospel. He is a Reformer given that he is setting up the church for success in the future by reexamining the position of women, gender, and other current topics in the church today. The manner in which Francis is creating a cultural revolution in the church attests to his power as a revolutionary in our time. All of this helps to solve the challenges that the church is facing—condemning wealthy nations who do not take care of the poor, helping peace-threatened spots, and care for the planet.

Budde provides us with a text that is filled with contributors who help us understand the Pontiff’s mind by examining the origins, inspirations, and leadership as the church continues into the 21st century. Francis is a person who lives symbolically through the imagery we usually see only in the parables of Jesus. He brings these parables to life not through what he says, but also by what he does. Francis as the renovator, the reformer, and the revolutionary are paving the way to the future, and positioning his successors to have similar success as they continue to guide the church.


About the Reviewer(s): 

Alex Sixta is a doctoral student in Education Leadership at California State University, Long Beach.

Date of Review: 
September 18, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Michael L. Budde is Chair and Professor of Catholic Studies and Professor of Political Science at DePaul University, where he is also Senior Research Professor in the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology. He is the author of numerous books on ecclesiology, political economy, and culture, including The Borders of Baptism: Identities, Allegiances, and the Church (2011) and the edited volume Witness of the Body: The Past, Present, and Future of Christian Martyrdom (2011).


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