Pope Francis is facing some difficult communication challenges as he begins his new role. The sexual abuse crisis, women priests, homosexuality and the Vatican bank – to name just a few – are all areas that must be addressed.
Already the image being presented is that of a man in touch with real people. Much has been made of his decision, when he was simply Cardinal Bergoglio, to live modestly in an apartment in Buenos Aires, rather than the archdiocese’s mansion, cooking for himself and using public transport. But a closer look at his stance on some of the more controversial issues makes you wonder just how forward-thinking he is and what, if anything, will change during his tenure.
What is clear is that the Catholic Church needs to find new ways of connecting and communicating with the faithful in order to go some way to restoring an image that has been tarnished by various scandals, and to show that the organisation is open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
Social media is the obvious route, and Pope Francis’ predecessor did make use of both Facebook and Twitter, although whether he really embraced it is open to debate. Getting out and meeting the people, and the ability to speak spontaneously rather than from a dry script, is also crucially important, as is demonstrating a willingness to have an open dialogue on some of the most controversial issues facing the Church
It remains to be seen whether this man will really reach out to the people in any meaningful kind of way and go some way to making the Gospel relevant to people in 21st century, or whether the conservatism that has been characteristic of the establishment for so many years will continue to dominate.