Pope Francis: is he a saint or a sinner?

Pope Francis was elected as the successor to Pope Benedict XVI on March 13, 2013. Some might see the date as auspicious. Christians should resist superstitious tendencies to fear otherwise, although subsequent events have shown he certainly has his opponents. So is Pope Francis a Saint or a Sinner? We list 20 things he has done – and things he has left undone that he ought to have done – on both sides of the argument. 

Pope Francis - Saint Or Sinner?Reuters

Pope Francis – Saint

1. He has put a modern face to the papacy and tried to move it on from obsessions with contraception, abortion and gay marriage. 

2. He has stood up for the family under pressure in modern life, controversially indicating in his document Amoris Laetitia that a more mercifull approach to divorced and remarried Catholics was needed when it came to admission to Holy Communion.

3. He has often spoken out for financial probity both inside and outside the Church, instituting a series of reforms in the Vatican organisation itself in an attempt to bring everything into line. 

4. He practises what he preaches about social need. He speaks up for refugees, hugs and comforts the poor and sick, kisses the feet of the 'most reviled' such as prisoners on Maundy Thursday services and goes out at night in Rome to minister to the homeless. 

5. He has spoken out for gays and against homophobia in the Church. Early in his papacy, he told journalists on a plane: 'If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?'

6. Although not personally particularly literate with modern communications technology, he allows people to take selfies with him in Rome, and encourages the Church in his name to be active on Twitter and Instagram. 

7. His Year of Jubilee last year enabled him to emphasise the theme of 'mercy', countering a more traditional and judgmental image that many had associated with the Church.

8. He has met and personally apologised to victims of child sex abuse.

9. He issued an encyclical advocating care for the environment in which he openly advocated the biblical concept of 'stewardship' of the earth.

10. He sold his Harley Davidson for charity and also became the first pope to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine

Pope Francis - Sinner

A worker covers with a banner reading 'illegal poster', a poster criticising Pope Francis in Rome, Italy.Reuters

1. He's being a bit too nice to Protestants. The Vatican supported naming a square in Rome after Martin Luther. He gets on exceptionally well with the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, a conservative evangelical.

2. According to some criticis, he seems to prefer visiting mosques and synagogues to attending a traditional Latin Mass.

3. Is it strictly within Catholic doctrine to suggest that divorced and remarried Catholics could be allowed to receive Holy Communion? Conservative cardinals who have challenged him on this have been met with a stony silence.

4. He reduced sanctions against a few paedophile priests – critics fear this is a mistaken application of his abiding passion to be merciful to all. 

5. Other critics want more mercy. An illicit poster plastered around Rome stated: 'Ah Francis, you've taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored cardinals ... but where is your mercy?'

6. Possibly he picked the wrong reform. Instead of going for the divorced and remarried, perhaps he should have focused first on relaxing the rules against married priests. 

7. Besides being nice to Protestants, some critics have accused him of 'protestantising' the Church itself. He recently signed a joint declaration with Lutherans, marking the Reformation and its 500th anniversary this year and stating that  Protestants and Catholics have more in common than they have differences.

8. He is rumoured to have something of a temper. One well-informed Rome commentor, Edward Pentin, described him in a recent tweet as 'boiling with rage' after four cardinals asked him to clarify whether his stance on divorced and remarried Catholics was or was not at odds with Catholic doctrine.

9. Despite an apparent reformist agenda for change, he has ruled out women priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Forever. 

10. The supporters of the US Cardinal Raymond Burke, the ultra-conservative who has been an outspoken critic of the Pope, have complained of his 'authoritarian' style of leadership.