The election of Argentinan Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I offers the opportunity for a change of direction in the Catholic Church.
The new Pope's Jesuitical humble way of life, living in a single room and using public transport augurs well for a Papacy based nearer to the people than that of his predecessors. However, he will have to be an effective politician, manager and communicator to succeed.
There appears to be corruption in some parts of the Vatican, and I would suggest this needs to be dismantled with a devolvement of power to the different countries and regions. The papacy needs to return to its former earlier state when the Pope was primarily the Bishop of Rome, not an all powerful dictator.
The hope must be that Pope Francis is a man touched by the liberation theologians of Latin America, prepared to reassert the Church's preferential option for the poor. A man not frightened to critique the destructive capacity of the present neo-liberal economic system. A man prepared to stand up for the common good. A man also prepared to stand up for women, allowing them to play a full role in the life of the Church, no longer being relegated to the status of second class citizens.
The new Pope will have to be prepared to deal with the scandal that is child abuse. This will mean not only issuing full and meaningful apologies for the damage done but also showing a willingness to recognise that it is the present unaccountable structures of the Church that have helped bring about this appalling abuse in the first place.
The problem with Pope Benedict was whilst recognising the sin that is child abuse, in my opinion he singularly failed to act to change the structures of the Church. In fact, he turned ever more to clericalism, entrusting ever greater power to priests, whose only qualification was their priesthood.
This tendency has been evident in this country, lay people have been being removed from jobs to be replaced by clergy.
The new Pope must be prepared to really open up the Church, genuinely empowering the laity in the true spirit of Vatican II. He needs to develop a collaborative Church where everyone really is seen as an equal. The days of dictats from on high must end. Catholics need real formation in the faith, not to be treated like adolescents.
If this genuinely happens, then the Church can once again be a real force for good in the world, empowering the poor and downtrodden and questioning sinful economic and political structures that keep so many people living on the planet struggling by in poverty. The Church must become one of liberation not subjugation.