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Francis, year six: "I pray there is no schism but I am not afraid"

REUTERS/Tony Gentile

2019 was the year in which Francis had bishops discuss the ordination of married men and lifted the so-called 'pontifical secret' on sexual abuse cases. It was also the year in which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued a letter blaming the Second Vatican Council, to which Francis is heir, for sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church. Could the confrontation between the two popes, as depicted in the Netflix movie, bring about a new schism?

Since he was elected Pope in 2013, Francis has been struggling with the biggest crisis in the Catholic Church of the past 100 years. But 2018 was certainly the worst year of his pontificate: from Pennsylvania's startling report to the sentencing of the Vatican's so-called 'number three' - Australian Cardinal George Pell - to six years in jail, from the suspicions hovering around the so-called 'number two' - Spaniard Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer - to the searches conducted at Chile's Episcopal Conference, it became clear that corruption has reached the pinnacles of the organization.

In February 2019, the Pope chaired a meeting of bishops from around the world on the subject. For over four days, the prelates heard victims' testimonies and promised they would act, with Francisco stressing the need to report the cases to judicial authorities. But it was not until December, when the Pope celebrated his 83rd anniversary and his 50th year as a priest, that Francis decided to order the lifting of the "pontifical secret " on sexual abuse inquiries, thereby allowing dioceses to grant access to archival documents when requested by the judicial authorities.

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