In his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis outlines his vision of the Church’s evangelization efforts. He calls all people to a personal encounter with Christ, and encourages them to share the joy of that encounter with others. He writes:
“An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow.”
The document goes on to address challenges to evangelization faced in the world and within the Church. Among these challenges is the need to create “still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.” However, Pope Francis states that this does not include the ordained priesthood.
“The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power ‘we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness.’”
Pope Francis goes on to address the social dimension of evangelization, emphasizing the need to aid and protect the poor and marginalized, particularly women and unborn children. Some have speculated (or hoped) that Pope Francis may reform the Church’s teaching on abortion. However, he clearly reaffirms the Church’s teaching by writing:
“I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”