Pope Francis Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

Photo by the Catholic Church (England and Wales) http://flic.kr/p/e3C53NOne year ago today on a rainy spring night, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis. His selection was a surprise, not only because his name was not among the initial contenders, but he is also not European. Nevertheless, observers have said that when the white smoke first appeared indicating that a new pope had been chosen, the skies cleared and the evening became “pleasant, cool, and cloudless.”

“The spring evening in which Pope Francis was elected is an apt symbol of the beginning of his papacy and the years that will follow,” wrote Father Joel Camaya, a Catholic priest from the Philippines and member of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, in a CNN iReport.

And it’s true. Pope Francis has breathed new life into the Catholic Church, especially when it comes to materialism and care for creation.

Before Pope Francis, piety and humility were often praised as virtues, but ignored as practices. For example, when Bishop William Murphy, of Rockville Centre, NY, displaced six nuns so a luxurious residential suite could be built for him, Pope John Paul II took no action. The Catholic Church seemed more concerned with issues like abortion, gay marriage and contraception, than tackling the sin of greed.

But frugal lifestyles is a buzzword around the Vatican today.

Last July Pope Francis said that some of the greatest dangers standing in the way of a happy religious life are materialism and a culture that believes nothing is forever. Religious men and women have to avoid the temptation of thinking “the latest smartphone, the fastest moped and a car that turns heads” will make them happy.

And the Pope practices what he preaches. He opted to live in a spartan guesthouse in the Vatican, rather than the opulent apartments his predecessors used. And instead of being chauffeured around in a bullet-proof Mercedes, the Pope rides in a 190,000-mile Renault 4 that runs on biofuel and (occasionally) a “Pope-cycle” — an electric bike manufactured by Mercedes.

The Pope’s focus on weeding out materialism and the “culture of waste” from the Church sets an example to people of faith everywhere and is a huge benefit to the environment. The amount of waste produced by just the US alone is unfathomable. 

There is still more that the Pope can do to combat materialism in the Catholic Church. One idea is changing the way the Church invests. The Church owns billions of dollars’ worth of stock in banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction, and real estate corporations. The National Post notes that the Church “only invests in companies that operate according to Catholic morals.” For example, it will not invest in a pharmaceutical company if it produces birth control products.

So shouldn’t it invest in sustainable, green companies too?

We’ll see what the next year has in store for Pope Francis. I think we can all be sure, there’s plenty more headlines to come.

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .