Ten years ago, in March 2013, Pope Francis first appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s and asked the People of God to pray for him. As became clear in the days and years that followed, the choice of his papal name — inspired by St. Francis of Assisi — was a telling indication of his own agenda. Like his namesake, he set out to renew the Church and its mission with special regard for the poor and those on the margins; to emphasize the theme of mercy; to reach out in friendship to other religions; to promote peace, justice, and care for the earth. Two new Orbis titles mark this anniversary, offering a guide to his essential teachings and his particular vision for ongoing Church renewal.

In Walking with Pope Francis, Maryknoll Father James H. Kroeger has offered condensed presentations of 10 pivotal documents by Pope Francis, aiming faithfully to capture the central insights of the papal documents and to communicate them in “everyday language.” 

Among these documents are Pope Francis’ first major document, The Joy of the Gospel; his historic encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home; and his most recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship. As Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle notes in his foreword, these digests may serve as appetizers for the full writings of Pope Francis: “May you also discover the vibrant ‘missionary spirit’ of Pope Francis: ‘Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness, and our hope-filled commitment.’”

The second book, Walking Together, is a succinct compendium of Pope Francis’ homilies and writings on “The Way of Synodality” since the beginning of his pontificate. The word “synodality” means “journeying together.” For Pope Francis this has become not only one of the defining themes of his papacy but an essential dimension of his intended legacy for the Roman Catholic Church. Synodality, he says is not something the Church does — but an expression of its being: walking together, listening, and collaborating under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is an invitation to see and experience the Church as a people of missionary pilgrims. 

With a preface by Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod, and an introduction by Sister Nathalie Becquart, member of the Congregation of Xavières and undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, this book is an essential guide to understanding the synodal process — which Pope Francis has termed “an expression of the Church’s nature, her form, style, and mission.” 

For those who have walked together with Pope Francis over the past 10 years, these two books offer both a retrospective view of the distance traveled and, as Dr. Phyllis Zagano puts it, “a roadmap by which the People of God can walk together into a promising future.”