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Pope Francis on his 85th birthday: I’m not going anywhere.

Story of 2021 for Francis: “No more Mr. Nice Guy”

… “Francis is going strong”

In the year leading up to his 85th birthday, Pope Francis — the shepherd who was reluctant to condemn his flock — sent a message to some Catholics — albeit a minority — who have tried to disparage him.

The Associated Press story about his December 15 celebration of his birthday made that very clear:

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Nicole Winfield, “Pope Francis at 85: No more Mr. Nice Guy, as church

reform hits its stride,” Associated Press, December 17, 2021

Francis has made clear a number of things this year, and the first of these is that Vatican II is here to stay — John Paul II and Benedict XVI be damned. He has made the emphatically clear, and he has also made some forceful condemnation of organizations like the right-wing television station EWTN, equating their action as diabolical in no uncertain words.

And he doing things like he is 65, not 85.

Going strong

The AP story made clear that although he suffered some intestinal ailments that required surgery this summer, giving conservatives who are hoping for his passing some hope, Francis is moving the church is the direction that he has been working toward for the past seven years. And, he has no intention of slowing down,

Pope Francis celebrated his 85th birthday on Friday, a milestone made even more remarkable given the coronavirus pandemic, his summertime intestinal surgery and the weight of history: His predecessor retired at this age and the last pope to have lived any longer was Leo XIII over a century ago.

Yet Francis is going strong, recently concluding a whirlwind trip to Cyprus and Greece after his pandemic-defying jaunts this year to Iraq, Slovakia and Hungary. He has set in motion an unprecedented two-year consultation of rank-and-file Catholics on making the church more attuned to the laity, and shows no sign of slowing down on his campaign to make the post-COVID world a more environmentally sustainable, economically just and fraternal place where the poor are prioritized.

Nicole Winfield, AP/National Catholic Reporter, December 17, 2021

I am not resigning

After his intestinal surgery, he was blunt in confronting those who have tried to undermine his pontificate from the first day. And in the past year, he has come down hard on those who were trying to move their own way, which is not something that he is going to stand for any longer.

He made clear that he understood the motivations of those who oppose him,

“Some wanted me dead,” Francis said of his critics.

Looking at photos of him on his 85th birthday, he illustrates that by the time he does leave, he will have appointed the vast majority of those who will appoint his successor.

The conservative right -wingers who have created so many problems with their mishandling of the sexual-abuse crisis, are either retiring or dying off, which is good for the church.

Tough lines -- as EWTN has learned

The television station that favors the most immoral and un-Christian American president in history claims to be “traditional” Catholicism. Francis has made clear that Vatican II is the tradition that Catholics must follow, and he is undoing some of the damage caused by his two predecessors,

Pope Francis has issued a thinly veiled criticism of the U.S.-based Eternal Word Television Network, known as EWTN, saying that while he may be worthy of personal scrutiny, the church does not deserve attacks such as those regularly made by the station.

"There is, for example, a large Catholic television channel that has no hesitation in continually speaking ill of the pope," said Francis. "I personally deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the church does not deserve them. They are the work of the devil. I have also said this to some of them."

Christopher White, “Pope Francis issues thinly veiled criticism of EWTN,” National Catholic Reporter, September 21, 2021

EWTN is doing the work of the devil by undermining the papacy? Those are strong words, but they are overdue. He has to go after the American hierarchy like he did with Charles Chaput, who was appointed archbishop of Philadelphia but who never received a red hat as a cardinal. Chaput was relegated to the sidelines by retirement age, and Francis made quick dispatch of him.

He has to do that with all of the Benedict and JPII appointees.

Latin mass decision really showed who was boss

No decision by Francis was despised by the right wing in America as much as the one about the Latin Mass being pushed out of the liturgy completely,

After spending the first eight years of his papacy gently nudging Catholic hierarchs to embrace financial prudence and responsible governance, Francis got tough this year, and appears poised to keep it that way.

Since his last birthday, Francis ordered a 10% pay cut for cardinals across the board, and slashed salaries to a lesser degree for Vatican employees, in a bid to rein in the Vatican’s 50-million-euro ($57 million) budget deficit. To fight corruption, he imposed a 40-euro ($45) gift cap for Holy See personnel. He passed a law allowing cardinals and bishops to be criminally prosecuted by the Vatican’s lay-led tribunal, setting the stage for the high-profile trial underway of his onetime close advisor …

But if there was anything Francis did this past year that riled his critics, it was his July decision to reverse his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, and reimpose restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass. Francis said he needed to take action because Benedict’s 2007 decision to allow freer celebration of the old rite had divided the church and been exploited by some traditionalists.

Nicole Winfield, AP, December 17, 2021

Bottom line: The only way Francis goes is if the guy upstairs takes him away. And right now, that looks like a long shot.

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