A year ago this week, the Catholic Church appeared to be in disarray.
For the first time in 600 years, a pope had resigned. There were scandals involving the cover-up of pedophilia and questions about money laundering by the Vatican Bank. Lent began with a leaderless church.
Then a surprise announcement came: A seemingly obscure Argentinian cardinal named Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen as the new pope. The 76-year-old Bergoglio chose the name Francis I.
As we wrote last year:
"Geography alone, though, will make Francis I a different kind of pope. He is from the 'New World' - Europe will no longer dominate. New voices will be heard, new ideas will be considered."
Actually, that statement vastly underrated Francis. He has changed the tone of the church leadership completely. He publicly embraces the poor, the downtrodden and the disfigured.
He has said that it is not his place to judge homosexuals and even indicated last week that he could see circumstances where civil unions made sense. He did not endorse them, but said he understood them.
He said he would pray for, not condemn, homosexual priests.
Francis lives his life as much like a simple priest as anyone occupying the papacy possibly can. He is more comfortable washing the feet of a pauper than participating in ceremonies featuring pomp and circumstance.
No, he has not cleared up all the problems he inherited, but there is an earnest feeling about him that he is trying daily to restore trust in the church leadership.
Coming from a Catholic background, we are proud of this simple man who now leads the church. It seems Francis I is determined to be a good shepherd.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.