Pope’s birthday a turning point in reform campaign

National Catholic Reporter

John L. Allen Jr. | Dec. 30, 2013

Officially speaking, the Vatican doesn’t do much to mark a pope’s birthday. Celebrations are reserved for his saint’s name day and the anniversary of his election, reflecting a preference to focus on the office rather than the man.

Unofficially, however, Francis marked the period around his 77th birthday Dec. 17 with a series of striking gestures and decisions that, taken together, represent a further turning point in his reform campaign.

Within the space of just four days, the pope reached out to the world with yet another blockbuster interview, laid the basis for a new generation of moderate “Francis bishops,” saw a reform commission he erected in July hire two global consulting firms to reorganize the Vatican’s PR operation and to beef up its accounting procedures, and also provided a new visual for his vision of a “poor church for the poor” by inviting three homeless men, as well as their dog, to join him for a birthday breakfast.

Given the Vatican’s typically somnambulant pace at Christmastime, the frenzy offers a further index of the “Francis effect.” This is a pope, it would seem, who just doesn’t have an off switch.

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