4 Major Challenges a New Pope Will Face

3. Being Relevant

It's fair to say that once upon a time the pope was once a kingmaker and a broker of treaties between Europeans states. Much of this influence has been lost. Over the past four decades the act of being religious has decreased in Europe as a whole. In 2009, for example, 50 percent of UK residents said that they had "no religion," according to a government survey. The Economist also reports that Church attendance has been declining across Catholic countries in Europe over the past decade, and in 2009 town hall civil weddings became more common than Catholic weddings in Spain.

So while becoming a kingmaker again is not really in the cards, there are still key ways a new pope will need to influence. Religion expert Elio Masferrer argues that in order to be a dynamic organization that is in tune with the modern needs of people, the Church must try to show greater leadership in social issues like poverty, the AIDS crisis, or the rights of immigrants.

"The faithful are not going to invest their time, in something that is sterile and is separated from reality," Masferrer said. "The church must find ways to be relevant in society."

4. Addressing Past and Present Scandals

The sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church have tainted the legacies of both John Paul and Benedict. Neither has truly addressed these problems, and they continue to be a damning situation for the church and for all those impacted by it.

In 2011, a group of sex abuse victims went as far as to call for the Pope to be tried for crimes against humanity at the international criminal court for allegedly covering up pleas of abuse. While it did not materialize into something, it was but another example of how the church is viewed by more and more people.

Masferrer says that the Catholic Church will have to tackle sexual scandals that have affected its reputation and credibility in several developed countries. To do as the last two popes have done would be a step backwards.

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