Advising Pope Francis on the challenges ahead

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was to many a surprising choice when he emerged from the papal conclave in March as the church’s 266th pontiff. The new Pope Francis, a down-to-earth Jesuit from Buenos Aires, Argentina with a keen sense of pastoral outreach, does not seem to fit the mold that many have come to expect in the successor to Peter—which may make him the ideal candidate for the job.
In a church wrought with division and plagued by scandals of corruption and sexual abuse, the so-called “pope of firsts” seems a breath of fresh air to many Catholics across the globe. But while his election was widely celebrated, he has been closely scrutinized as he begins his ministry for signs of how he might approach some of global Catholicism’s greatest challenges.
According to Claretian Father Gustavo Larrazábal, an Argentinean priest who developed a close friendship with then-Cardinal Bergoglio as publisher of many of the pope’s writings, Francis has a clear understanding of those challenges. “The great issues of the church in Argentina are very similar to the global ones,” says Larrazábal, noting concerns about evangelization, marriage and divorce, and questions of clerical celibacy, among others. “For his part, he knows exactly what he needs to do, and he will be very firm.”
Still, the new pope would do well to surround himself with trusted advisers who can help him navigate some of the complex challenges ahead. We asked eight experts well acquainted with some of those issues for their advice to Pope Francis, and on the following pages they provide the new pope with their thoughts on how best to address some of the church’s most pressing needs.

Click below to see what advice these experts have for the new pope.

These articles appeared in the May 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 5, pages 17-22).