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    Posted March 5, 2013 by
    Sydney, Australia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Catholics: Your views on new pope

    The Catholic Church: Change Beyond the White Smoke


    By stepping down from the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI has opened the Vatican’s doors to an unprecedented opportunity for change at the Catholic Church.

    The demographics of the Church’s 1.2 billion parishioners have shifted dramatically over the past one hundred years and it would be remiss of the Church not to understand the shift.  It is time to break down the high walls of the conservative Vatican and encourage its leadership to listen to the people.

    The Pew Forum conducted research earlier this year into the demographics and views of the world’s Catholic population, with a deep-dive into the US.  More that 50% of Catholics in the US support abortion and are pro-choice.  Most Americans say it would be good if the next pope allows priests to marry.  Two thirds of former Catholics say they left the Catholic faith because they stopped believing in its teachings.  These are critical signals for the new leader.

    What Will the New Leader Represent?
    As soon as the pope is chosen, the world’s media will quickly look into his background, history and search for evidence pointing to his values and beliefs.  Will he adequately represent the shift in the global population of Catholics?  What action has he taken against child abuse?  Are his views traditionally conservative or does he understand the need to embrace and lead change?

    As soon as the white smoke from the Conclave Room signals the successful election of a pope, most of the Catholic world will look beyond the smoke in hope for change.

    Would Leading Change at the Catholic Church be Difficult?
    Culture is often described as “the way we do things around here”, the “dos and don'ts” in behaviours and the pope, a.k.a. the CEO of the Catholic Church, possesses the most critical role in influencing the culture.  However, in this particular organisation, it will take a great deal of influencing, groundwork and resilience to make change happen.  There are two reasons for this:

    1. The Church is an extremely conservative and complex organisation with embedded sub-organisations, which fear change. The further the distance between the Pope and the priest leading a sermon in the local village, the more diluted the change message will become.
    2. Secondly, an embedded culture can actually cause upward influence and pressure, shifting the behaviours of the new leader over time back to the conservative and comfortable norm. In fact, it could even derail the influence of a change-friendly pope.

    If the pope that will be elected is pro-change, he will need to be steadfast in his vision and, more importantly, resolute in his direction.  The pope’s actions must be consistent with his message, loudly delivering and repeating it throughout every corner of the globe.

    It certainly isn’t make-or-break time for the Catholic Church.  Many partitioners resonate with its core, family-friendly values and comfortably belong to local Catholic communities.

    The opportunity for the new leadership is to embrace this loyalty and the strengths of the Church whilst in parallel, changing core beliefs of the corporation to maintain relevance into the future.

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