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Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy; A Vision for the Church (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014), 150pp.Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy; A Vision for the Church (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014), 150pp.

           When Jorge Mario Bergoglio (b. 1936) was elected Pope on March 13, 2013, he became the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from the Americas, the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first non-European Pope in almost 1300 years (although his parents were Italians who emigrated to Argentina). He was also the first Pope to take the name Francis. In 2013, TIME magazine named him Person of the Year for the radically new tenor of the words and the deeds of his papacy.

           This book is "the first Vatican-authorized book detailing his vision for the Catholic Church." But it's really not a book in the normal sense of the word. Rather, it's a collection of his speeches, homilies, and official teaching documents. There are 39 "chapters" in 140 pages, each of which is only 2-3 pages long. Even though this makes for choppy reading, there are some recurring themes. Francis encourages us never to lose trust in God's mercy. Instead of being a closed and exclusive church, he urges believers to have a radical openness to the farthest "outskirts" of society. He warns his priestly colleagues about clerical ambition, bureaucratism, careerism, and worldliness: "You are pastors, not functionaries."

           There's nothing here about clerical celibacy, women's ordination, the crisis of pedophilia, gays, or other hot button topics. Rather, he gives a call with conviction to all believers to follow in the footsteps of Jesus: "We are all the Church, and we must all follow the path of Jesus, who himself took the path of renunciation. He became a servant, one who serves; he chose to be humiliated even to the cross. And if we want to be Christians, then there is no other way" (117).

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