Faith plays a significant role in people’s daily lives in many of the places where we work and faith leaders have extraordinary influences in places such as Malawi and Zimbabwe, where we are working closely with them to bring about positive changes in poor and marginalised communities.

The recently retired Pope Benedict XVI showed a deep moral conviction to improving the lives of the poor, and offered authoritative leadership on topics ranging from the environment and climate change to the global economy.

But what issues will his successor, Pope Francis, choose to use his position of power to influence?

As the Catholic Church prepares to formally install the new Pontiff, these are the key topics we think should be at the top of his agenda:

Women in fragile states:

“Poverty is a major issue that affects many women and girls – so the Pope should be calling for greater education of women and girls; and encouraging churches to facilitate income generation and livelihood opportunities for women,” says Progressio’s Governance Policy Officer, Lizzette Robelto-Gonzales, adding that, “eliminating all forms of violence (physical and mental) against women and girls would fulfil one of the pillars of Christ’s teachings – caring for the fellow human being. The Church must call for equality amongst men and women where both enjoy the benefits.”

The environment:

Glenda Rodriguez, our Sub-Regional Manager for Central America who is based in Honduras, has said, “As a country where most of the people are Catholic and the Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez has played a significant role within the politics, most Hondurans expect the new pope to prioritize social problems that affects poor people and urge governments to struggle against the corruption that is causing more poverty to the people.”

“As an organization working on environmental issues,” Glenda continued, “ we expect the Pope to urge the Church to be more assertive in their messages and actions for respect of natural resources.”


“The new Pope must speak out about the exploitation and unsustainable consumption of the world's precious freshwater resources and must advocate for changes in the structures and power dynamics which prevent the poorest and most marginalised from having equal and sustainable access to the natural resources on which their lives and livelihoods so critically depend,” said Lis Martin, Progressio’s Environment Advocacy Officer.


“We encourage Pope Francis to continue his predecessor’s acknowledgement of how vital care and compassion is for people suffering with HIV and AIDS are. In 2001 Pope Francis, then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, washed and kissed the feet of 12 people with AIDS as part of the celebration of Maunday Thursday Mass at a hospice in the capital of Argentina,” Mark Lister, Progressio’s Chief Executive said, “ This very visual expression of compassion and understanding offers a sign of hope that he will maintain a public and proactive stance on the issue of HIV and AIDS.”

“I am not afraid to be tested for HIV. It is important that I know my status so I can go on with life and help others,” says Christopher, a Pastor living in Chitugwiza, Zimbabwe, who works for Progressio partner Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches.

Mark added that, “In many countries where we work faith leaders, like Christopher, and those in religious orders have used their position of influence to help reduce the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS and encourage people to get tested and treated. We hope this attitude will be encouraged by Pope Francis.”

Leading by example

Pope Francis is a champion of social justice, siding with people living in poverty, and leading by example by living a modest life in his previous role as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. We are hopeful that he will continue to prioritise the needs of those from poor and marginalised communities and optimistic about the new perspective he brings to the leadership of the Catholic Church.

Photo: Christopher, a Pastor working in Zimbabwe © Progressio