British journalist and author Austen Ivereigh spoke about Pope Francis’s rise to the papacy and read from his biography Francis, titled “The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope” Wednesday night. The event, which was cosponsored by the Berkley Center and the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life took place in the Intercultural Center Auditorium to around 150 people.

Ivereigh spoke about the Francis’s rise in the Catholic Church and about the type of change that the Church needs to stay relevant in a divisive world.

“Here is a man who had actually dedicated his life intellectually to one thing really—if you can boil it down—which is the spiritual discernment of how institutions and bodies are united and why sometimes they can end up in division and schism,” Ivereigh said. “I began to realize…this actually is his life’s work.”

Ivereigh said that the creation of conservative and liberal factions within the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council has led to false reforms of the 2,000 year old institution.

“False reform is driven by ideas in self-imposed groups, distanced from the ordinary faithful,” Ivereigh said.

Francis, on the other hand, has recognized that the Church needs to become more true to itself and focus on ordinary people and the poor, according to Ivereigh.

Ivereigh also used the talk to clear up the controversy surrounding a misleading passage in his biography in which he suggests that Francis lobbied cardinals for their vote prior to the 2013 conclave, an act which is strictly illegal. The Holy See Press officially denied any collusion earlier this week.

“They had learned their lessons from 2005. They first secured Bergoglio’s assent,” Ivereigh wrote on page 355 of his book, referring to a number of cardinals who supported Bergoglio.

“No such deal as it were took place. And I am happy to make that clarification,” Ivereigh said.

Journalist and Georgetown Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs Senior Fellow Paul Elie moderated a discussion with Ivereigh following his talk.

One of the main talking points during the moderated conversation was the role of Francis’s Jesuit roots in his papacy, especially his use of the Ignatian idea of discernment or perceiving God’s desire in a particular situation.

“Francis is convinced… that a process of genuine discernment happens when you are willing and able to live in the tension between two things that seem humanly incapable of reconciliation,” Ivereigh said.

Ivereigh answered a handful of questions from the audience following his talk and moderated discussion. Question topics ranged from women in the Catholic Church to the tension between conservative and liberal forces in Vatican politics.

Gregory Cleva, a volunteer in the Ignatian Volunteer Corps who is assigned to Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, said he attended the talk because he has always had an interest in Pope Francis.

 “I’ve always been confused as to how to define Pope Francis and his point that he’s not a conservative or liberal but a radical in the sense of gospel living and that he approaches any ideology–whether it’s liberal or conservative–that gets in the way of gospel living and gospel thinking. So this [talk] resonated completely with me,”Cleva said.

Bennett Stehr (SFS ‘18) attended the event to come to a deeper understanding of Pope Francis.

“I am Catholic, but… I’m really questioning my faith,” Stehr said. “So I have faith in and a lot of hope in Pope Francis as a new directional leader. And so I heard [Ivereigh] was talking about Pope Francis, and I heard how he is an expert on him. And so that’s why I wanted to come out and just hear what he had to say.”

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