Argentine theologian Emilce Cuda, known as “the woman who knows how to read Pope Francis,” will speak at next week’s St. Mark’s College conference on the Pope’s legacy. More than 45 scholars from around the world will take part. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Shedding light on a complex Pope: St. Mark’s conference examines Francis’ unique legacy

The first international forum to explore Pope Francis’ papacy in a Canadian context will be held in Vancouver next week, drawing more than 45 speakers from around the world.

The conference, which runs from May 4 to 7 at St. Mark’s College at UBC, “is the first major conference dedicated to the pontificate of Pope Francis to be held in Canada,” said Dr. John Martens, director of the college’s Centre for Christian Engagement, which is hosting the conference.

Entitled Pope Francis and the Future of the Church: Prospects and Challenges for Renewal, the conference will examine the Pope’s legacy and “the dynamic role that Pope Francis has played since his election as Pope in 2013,” said Martens.

Since its launch in 2019, the Centre for Christian Engagement has hosted public talks, podcasts, and workshops to create a “culture of encounter,” and for St. Mark’s president Dr. Gerry Turcotte the Pope’s 10th anniversary in office is an ideal subject for the centre to explore.

“What better topic to celebrate the centre’s important work than a conference that marks the Pontiff’s 10 years in office – a Pope, moreover, who has himself worked to bring divided communities together.”

The conference will shed light on the many varied and complex roles and influences Francis has played, said Turcotte.

The speakers – lay, cleric, and religious – will examine a range of themes central to Francis’ pontificate and his vision of the Church. Among them are the impact of Vatican II, the importance of synodality, Francis’ commitment to integral ecology, his focus on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and his championing of the poor and marginalized.

In addition to the conference speakers, three keynote addresses are open to the public for free.

The first is by Villanova University’s Dr. Massimo Faggioli, who will present Laudato Si’ in a Time of Global Disruption/Francis and Politics. The talk will also be the centre’s first annual Laudato Si’ lecture, funded by an endowment to sponsor research into the Pontiff’s commitment to the environment.

The second keynote speaker will be Argentinian theologian Emilce Cuda of Loyola University in Chicago. Known as “the woman who knows how to read Pope Francis,” Cuda is Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and will speak on The Reform of the Church is not a Change but a Commitment.

Dr. Catherine Clifford of St. Paul’s University in Ottawa will deliver the third plenary, Leaning into the Distant Goal of Vatican II: Pope Francis and Christian Unity.

“There can be no doubt that Pope Francis has carved out a unique legacy within the papacy,” said Turcotte. “It’s fitting that St. Mark’s and Centre for Christian Engagement play a leading role in helping the community to understand this ground-breaking legacy.”

For more information on the conference visit


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