Ailing Pope Francis Hurries to Bolster His Progressive Legacy

Pope Francis is moving to shore up his progressive legacy as his health problems increase, making key appointments that could shape the Catholic Church well past the end of his pontificate.

Following hospitalizations in March and June, the pope named a new Vatican doctrinal chief, members of a Vatican synod that could consider major changes to church governance and teaching, and additional members of the body that will elect his successor, all in a little more than a week.

The 86-year-old, who has had two operations for intestinal surgery in the past two years and now often uses a wheelchair, is planning trips to Portugal and Mongolia next month.

“He’s a man in a hurry right now and he’s putting the final touches on this very long and gradual process of changing the church,” said Robert Mickens, English editor of La Croix International, a Catholic publication.

While Francis has revised little of the letter of church teaching during his more than 10 years in office, he has encouraged public debate, among the laity as well as the clergy, on long-taboo subjects such as divorce, homosexualitycontraception and the ordination of women.

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