His mandate is to use his short papacy to smash the corruption in the curial establishment, then leave. He’s expected to make a mess of the place, leaving it to a more steady-handed successor to put the pieces back together (a la Paul VI). At least that’s how I read it. Whether that actually happens is anyone’s guess.
As for the Francis I papacy itself, I think we could be in for quite a ride. He clearly wanted to make a statement, both with his choice of a new name and by appearing in a simple white cassock rather than the usual finery. St. Francis of Assisi is said to have been given a divine mandate to “rebuild my church” – so the name explicitly implies that the church needs some serious TLC. He’s clearly a warm and pastoral spirit, but I have to say his remarks from the balcony were a bit rambling and disjointed. This is a polar opposite personality to Benedict XVI, who was a towering intellect and skilled theologian, but not terribly pastoral. Benedict was elected to teach and strengthen the faith, Francis is there to govern and renew the church.
Obviously, the jury is out, but at the very least I expect him to be popular. He brings to mind John XXIII, and that sort of leadership wins a lot of admirers. The big question, other than curia reform, will be what path he charts on doctrine. Obviously he’s not a huge move ideologically, but he does have a more Jesuit social justice focus. A lot of traditionalists are worried about his stance on the availability of Latin Mass to those who want it, as he apparently did not implement Benedict’s “liberation” of said mass in his diocese. Another iquestion for me will be his choice of curial officials and cardinals – will he be the one to finally kibosh the European majority in the Sacred College?
From a Protestant point of view, I hope this new Pope adheres to Scripture and reforms the doctrinal corruptions of Rome – prayer to saints, bowing to objects, indulgences, Purgatory and the like – but I know the chances of this barring a Damascus Road experience are none. I think that Benedict had a greater fidelity to Scripture in many areas, but not enough, and I hope that trend continues. A re-examination of every belief that the Church holds in light of Scripture would do us all good.