Pope Francis and the conscience of the world

Pope Francis has called on leaders and politicians around the world to care for the poor, feed the hungry, help the needy, and reform economic and financial systems whose injustices, the pope correctly says, kill people.

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Words cannot express the moral and historical importance of the papacy of Francis. He follows in the footsteps of previous popes who have, like Francis, championed lifting the poor and systemic financial reforms that are necessary to achieve the goals of their faith.

What is different about Francis is his willingness, even eagerness, to directly challenge political leaders and directly confront ideologies he believes are destructive, such as "trickle down" economics.

Francis is reaching out to women and broadening the emphasis and reach of church initiatives. He has begun structural reforms of the Catholic Church itself, including the Vatican Bank, recently the subject of a long investigative profile in the Financial Times.

As the papacy of Francis evolves, it will be fascinating to watch this kind, just and humble man eschew the trappings of office and challenge the bastions of power and influence. In American politics — as our leaders in Congress will soon leave for holiday celebrations while leaving many of the jobless without benefits and many hungry children without food — I predict the influence of Francis is only beginning to be understood and felt.

It was refreshing to see Time magazine name Francis the person of the year. Francis is a man of conscience for the world and a man of hope for the hungry. He might well become a pope for the ages.