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How Pope Francis took the world by surprise


Pope Francis is one of the most prominent international leaders at present, and he’s the focus of this interview on Eureka Street TV. 

In our Skype conversation, American journalist, Robert Mickens, a veteran Pope-watcher and Vatican analyst, gives his frank views on the relatively brief but highly significant and surprising pontificate of Pope Francis. 

Mickens first came to prominence in 2005 when he began what would become his very popular column, ‘Letter from Rome’, in the prestigious British Catholic newspaper The Tablet.

But his life in the Eternal City started long before that. He first went to Rome in 1986 as a seminarian for the diocese of Toledo, Ohio in the Midwest of the USA to study at the Gregorian University run by the Jesuits.

After two years he decided that life as a priest was not for him, largely because of disillusionment with the clericalism and careerism he saw in the Church in Rome. But he continued theological studies and completed the three year course as a lay person. 

In 1989 he got a job at Vatican Radio where he remained till 2000. During this period he was deeply affected by interviewing a wide range of impressive Catholics, mainly visiting missionaries and religious, who reaffirmed his faith. He often travelled with Pope John Paul II, doing live radio commentary for papal liturgies.

From 2000 till 2003 he did his first stint as Vatican correspondent for The Tablet. He then moved to Geneva for two years to work as a communications officer for Franciscans International, an NGO representing all the branches of the Franciscan order on social justice issues at the United Nations.

In 2005 he returned to Rome to work for The Tablet again as Vatican correspondent, and he began his column, ‘Letter from Rome.’ This continued till April of this year when he parted ways with the publication. 

In October 2014 he became editor of a new online Catholic journal Global Pulse. As well as being the new home for his ‘Letter from Rome’, it compiles reporting and features from a number of well-known national and regional journals including Eureka Street. The others are La Croix from France, Commonweal Magazine from America, eRenlai from Taiwan, and UCANews from sources across Asia.

This Skype interview is in two parts - Part 1 (13 mins) above, and Part 2 (11 mins) below:


Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Robert MIckens, Pope Francis, Vatican, Catholic Church



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Existing comments

Thank you for this informative interview with Robert Mickens whose CV indicates that he is in a position to express opinions with more authority than the majority of we lay members of the Church. I was therefore surprised by his comments on the pre-Vatican II Church. in his admission the he was educated post Vatican II he says that since that time we are able to receive Eucharist in the Orthodox Church. I was taught as a schoolboy in the 1950s that we could receive Eucharist in any of the Eastern rite Churches and the Greek Orthodox Church because all of these possessed genuine Sacraments unlike any Protestant denomination. This was the basis of the "invalidity" of protestant ritual practice. He rightly points out also that the true essence of ecumenism (as outlined clearly in the Vat II documents on ecumenism)remains the unification of all Christianity under the umbrellao f the Catholic Sacramental Church - something which seems to have eluded the understanding of many in the ecumenical movements.

john frawley | 26 November 2014  

Like John Frawley, I immediately picked up on his point about receiving Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church. (Thanks, John, for reassuring me that my memory isn't failing me - I, too learned differently in my pre-Vat.II primary school). More important, perhaps, than this factual error is the quality of some of Robert Mickens writing, as I've seen it on other sites. He can be openly contemptuous of those whose views he doesn't share, especially certain American bishops. I'm happy he likes Pope Francis, but surely balance and humility, rather than contempt, have a place in Catholic media anyway. I wonder why he parted company with the "Tablet"?

Joan Seymour | 26 November 2014  

As regards sacramental intercommunion eg Eucharist. Beside RCC requirements one must e.g. respect the laws of the Greek Orthodox Church itself which forbids its priests to administer the Sacraments to any who are not adherents of Orthodoxy, unless special permission is obtained from an Orthodox Bishop. # the RCC allows communion to non Catholics in danger of death where latter express a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. #Also a rescript from Rome was promulgated. Thus among sacramental regulations, one notes, e.g., the highly pastorally resourceful "Guidelines for admission to the Eucharist between the Uniate Chaldean Church and the Orthodox Assyrian Church of the east"[The Assyrian anaphora has no mention explicitly of words of consecration, but after rigorous study, the ancient anaphora of Mardi and Addai has implicit valid consecration allowing inter communion in areas short of uniate Catholic clergy. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20011025_chiesa-caldea-assira_en.html Finally eg the Anglican priesthood being invalid is not "under the umbrellao f[sic] the Catholic Sacramental Church"[Apostolicae Curae,1896]

Father John George | 26 November 2014