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US Ambassador to Holy See examines Vatican reforms

| Monday, March 21, 2016

Ken Hackett, the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, spoke about Pope Francis and his vision for the Catholic Church at Eck Visitors Center on Friday afternoon. Hackett, who works closely with the Vatican, said Pope Francis is the most reform-minded pope in recent history.

United States Ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett speaks at the Eck Visitors Center on Friday afternoon. Rosie LoVoi | The Observer
United States Ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett speaks at the Eck Visitors Center on Friday afternoon.

“Pope Francis has kept the Church’s vision sacred, but uses it to influence policies and actions more dramatically than has been done in a long time,” Hackett said.

Considering he is more radical than his predecessors, Hackett said it was inevitable that some people would disagree with his vision.

“When a new boss arrives and implements new ways of doing things … there’s going to be resistance,” Hackett said.

Hackett said one controversial action was Pope Francis’ appointment of a financial overseer for many Vatican sub organizations.

“When an institution has evolved over so many years, and its sub organizations have grown accustomed to a certain degree of operational and financial autonomy, you’re bound to have some tensions,” Hackett said.

Hackett said this initiative is part of Pope Francis’s plan to rid the Church of its excesses and refocus attention on the poor and suffering.

“He counsels [bishops] to move amongst their people, and to shed the trappings and the luxuries of higher office,” Hackett said.

Pope Francis does this himself, Hackett said, by interacting frequently with the deprived and lowly.

“His preference is generally to meet and have encounters with the simple, the meek, the troubled, the sick, the prisoners, and the homeless,” Hackett said.

According to Hackett, Pope Francis ensures his actions and reforms are just by consulting a group of nine cardinals from around the world.

“He uses these cardinals as a sounding board, and as a kitchen cabinet,” Hackett said.

Hackett said the best example of Pope Francis’s collaborative reform is seen in “Laudato Si’,” his encyclical on climate change.

Pope Francis realized the importance of meticulous research when formulating this encyclical, Hackett said.

“He was prepared and aware that if he was going to issue an encyclical on climate change, he would have to apply tough, scientific rigor, since it would be picked apart,” Hackett said.

Hackett said Pope Francis assembled a diverse team of experts to help write the environmental encyclical.

“He came with a group of international legislators from around the world who were interested in environmental climate change, and they met in the Vatican and shared their research,” he said.

The resulting encyclical, Hackett said, has had a profound impact because of how it framed climate change as a moral issue.

“The encyclical gave moral cover to those politicians who had to make very difficult decisions and commitments on climate change,” he said.

Hackett said the impact can be seen in particular in Mission Innovation, an initiative signed by the United States, China and several other countries focusing on expanding clean energy research, and the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which aims to make large corporations more sustainable.

According to Hackett, Pope Francis helped to catalyze these reforms.

“He was influencing the global agenda,” Hackett said. “It was an agenda that resonated for many in the United States and worldwide.”

Hackett said these reforms and the widespread influence they have had are helping to rebrand the Catholic Church.

“These changes are gaining credibility for how the Church and the pope are perceived on a world stage,” Hackett said.

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