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Do Now

Times are changing with the election of the first South American Pope. What should the role of the pope be in today’s world? Is it time for the church to update its positions on social issues like birth control and gay marriage?


The Cardinals are smiling in Rome with the election of a new pope. He is the first pope who is not from Europe, but is South American (where 40% of the world’s Catholics live), from Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is a sign of new times for the 1.2 billion Catholics in his huge world-wide constituency.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has taken the name Francis – drawing on the connection to St Francis of Assisi who saw his calling in working for social justice, working with the poor and living a simple and humble life. As a cardinal, Pope Francis did not live surrounded by luxury, and is expected to continue to take a low profile, traveling by bus rather than chauffeur driven cars, cooking his own meals and visiting slums. In his view, pastoral work rather than doctrinal battles is the work of religion in the modern world.

But is this feasible? Can Pope Francis be a reformer by emphasizing the needs of the poor without taking a clear stance on secular issues e.g. the financial scandals in the Vatican and sex offences by priest? Can the Church separate itself from political or social laws and doctrines? Although seen as a modernizer of Argentina’s Catholic Church, Pope Francis is a Jesuit who is committed to traditional Church beliefs and values. He has spoken clearly against same-sex marriage, gay adoption, abortion and ordaining women as priests.

There was the joy in the streets of Buenos Aires where Latin Americans celebrated the pontiff who will be from among them, their new pastor. The Vatican is celebrating a new leadership, looking to Pope Francis to rebuild and lead the Church in the 21st century. How should we expect Pope Francis to make this happen?


WTTW Chicago Tonight video New Pope Elected – Mar. 13, 2013
Pope Francis, formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, was revealed today as the newly elected pope. We have the latest news and analysis on the first Jesuit and South American pope in the history of the church.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with@KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to tweet their personal opinions as well as support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.

More Resources

NPR’s Talk of the Nation Cardinals Elect Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio As New Pope – Mar. 14, 2013
Cardinals at the Vatican Choose Argenitne cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope.

KQED’s The Lowdown post A New Pope For A New Catholic World – March 13, 2013
In our hyper-connected world, where success is often measured by the number of “followers” and “friends” we have, becoming pope is pretty much the holy grail. I mean, think about it: you become pope, and just like that, you’ve got 1.2 billion followers. Take that Twitter!

NPR story Who is Pope Francis? – Mar. 13, 2013
Tragedy struck small town America again when a gunman entered a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire on a crowd gathered for the premiere of the latest Batman movie.

  • Brandi

    Today, I believe that the Pope should get up to date with all the current events since he does have a big role in the churches. Having a new Pope should mean that they know everything that is going on in the world since there are many things that need to be appointed.

    • Julia Lipply

      Brandi, I agree that he should know everything that is happening in the world, but he needs to have his own views on certain stances and not views based off of the world’s opinion.

      • April

        I agree Julia that he needs to be more social involved in the world, but he needs to follow the views and rules that are written in the Bible because he is a religious leader.

  • Morgan

    I’m not Catholic, so, I can’t really show much excitement towards the new pope. Still, I think the pope should be a good role model and encourage positive moral values.

  • Julia Lipply

    Being a Christian, I feel as though the Pope is not needed as much as Catholics may think. However, I think that it is necessary for there to be clear stances on gay marriage and birth control because those are very controversial issues today. I think it is vital for the pope to be a positive influence to the Catholics and other religions who may look up to him.

  • Morgan

    I agree with Julia. I am also a Christian and I do believe that there needs to be more attention focused on teens who are using birth control.

    • Kane

      Clearly you are extremely radical and you are not well versed when it comes to common sense. May I ask you why exactly birth control is bad? Is this something that is truly bad for society or a personal bias that you cannot see past because your mind is so narrowed on your beliefs? If you were a 17 year old teen, I can assure you that it wouldn’t have been ideal to have a child. Not only would that be a burden on your family, but it would take a toll on you and most likely ruin your life if you were like most people these days and everything wasn’t just handed to you. It’s almost sad when someone like myself, being a 17 year old male, see the faulty opinions of my elders and the ignorances of todays leaders and working class. Instead of being judgmental and trying to make people live the life you believe is right, maybe you should revert back to the ole’ pages of your Bible and recall that doing so is frowned upon by the Lawd Jesus. For the sake of all those with the belief that our opinions should support everyone regardless of their decisions, please keep your conservative comments to yourself.

      Kane Dodson

      • Chris

        I agree with Kane. Jesus told us to never to criticize anyone, for any reason. And if a young girl was raped, then why shouldn’t she be allowed to get an abortion? Although I feel spiritually that it would be better for her to give the baby up for adoption, it is her right to decide what should be done. The pain and suffering for her would not be worth it.

  • Lauren

    I have always kind of believed that the pope was just for show. I don’t remember ever seeing the pope do anything or participate in anything. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this opinion. I think Pope Francis should focus on doing more and proving everyone with this opinion wrong, strengthening the Church by being involved.

  • April

    As a person of a different denomination, I do not recognize the full responsibilities of a pope. I do however feel that the pope should update to current events that are occurring today. I feel that the pope should be involved in more social issues, but the position that the pope takes should agree in the terms of the Catholic faith. The pope is one to make decisions based on the Bible itself, and the Bible’s views will not change, and I do not expect the views of the pope’s to either. A pope is devoted to God’s rules and words, and he should follow them as they are written.

  • Kristi

    I’m really not a Catholic, but I think that the Pope should get up to date. He should let people know his point of view on all the issues today, and not just talk about church. He should know everything thats going on. And to someone people this issues are a big think.

  • Auston

    I think the Pope is just a symbol and he means nothing to me.

  • Kameron E.

    I believe that the church should remain at its position in the world. I think that the social issues should be revolved first rather then the church trying to take a side. Reforms of the church take more then the time that one pope has. It is like trying to update the constitution every time a social issue comes up.

  • Cristal Monsibais

    I believe that they should stick to the traditional beliefs. Times are changing, but some things should just remain the same. The beliefs have been the same for centuries. Even though times changed, beliefs remained the same. And there is no reason for them to change now. Especially something like gay-marriage, that is more of a social issue. I like how the new pope has decided to live in poverty and live a simple life. I also like that fact that he is living for the people. Yes, the new pope truly is “new”, but that doesn’t mean that everything else needs to change also.

  • Jesus Diaz

    I was raised Catholic by both of my parents until my father turned into a Jehova’s Witness which at the end just pushed me away from religion in general though i have my own believes that have been influenced by both I honestly think that the pope is not important. If anything i think hes just a puppet thats out to play as a saint. When in reality they just fill the religion with controversy. If anything we should just get rid of the pope in general but that is just one of hundreds of my opinions that if we could just have a discussion would be so much better then typing word for word….

  • Samuel K.

    I am not catholic, so I don’t know a lot about the church; however, from what I’ve heard and read, the pope seems to be more of a figure head than anything else in the same way that the queen of England doesn’t hold a lot of power, rather it is parliament that makes decisions and makes the changes. It is the church itself that needs to take into account all the the events that occur during these interesting modern times and reevaluate its stance on the key issues like abortion, gay marriage, and birth control. #rapoch

  • Amber Redinger

    Today, I believe that the Pope should get up to date with all the current events since he does have a big role in the churches. Being the Pope, he should know almost everything about anything and everything. He should also be caught up on all the current events. But I am also not Catholic, so I guess I can’t really say much more.

  • Mickey

    Religion and peoples views have and still need to change. The pope at this point has become the equivalent to the British royal family, only show, and his views likely revolve more around original blind catholic views. People have been able to speak more freely over time and the church should realize this. @kqededspace # KQEDdonow @rapoch

  • Evan Freeman

    I think the new Pope will change the Catholic Church for the better, and bring it out of the Dark Ages and into the 21 First Century. Pope Francis the 1st will do a great job reshaping the Church! @kqedspace @rapoch

  • Kyanta

    Knowing that Pope Francis is committed to traditional Church believes and values, it seems unlikely for a complete change in social issues. But Pope Francis is a Jesuit, and it was said that they are strongly involved in peace and social justice issues, so it is still very possible. #KQEDdonow #rapoch

  • JM

    I’m not sure Pope Francis will be able to rebuild the Church. It will take great courage to confront those in the clergy who have sheltered child-abusers over the past few decades. He can try and confront problems such as decline in attendance and membership, but the elephant in the room will always be the child-abuse problem. And there seem to be an endless amount of clergy involved in covering it up.

  • Ally

    I don’t think we can expect the Pope to completely reverse many of the Church’s stances on social issues like gay marriage and birth control. Catholics are allowed to disagree with the Church on such issues and still be reverant Catholics. The Pope should, however, confront the issue of child abuse that has plagued the Church. As a Catholic, it is difficult to recognize and respect an institution that has covered up, and continues to cover up, such a terrible scandal.

  • bloomingcloud

    @KQEDedspace I find it interesting that the Pope Francis is also treading on a renewed cultural landscape. He believe in the beauty of simplicity and the beauty of Jesus shine through the simple things in life and it’s true foundations. So many religious institutions are finding their way and it’s refreshing to know that the Catholic Church is continuing to find faith in the beauty of faith, hope, and love #KEDDONOW.


Maxine Einhorn

Maxine Einhorn is from London and has lived in the Bay Area for 12 years. She has worked in adult education in London,UK, for over twenty years as a tenured instructor and department manager. She has an MA in Film and TV from University of London and has taught, moderated and appraised academic work in film studies and media literacy at undergraduate and college level. She runs the ESL/ Post Secondary project at KQED which offers media-rich resources for and created by ESL educators.

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