A heady first year of Pope Francis' papacy, but a tougher 12 months lie ahead

Pope Francis appears on the balcony of St Peter's Basillica after being elected in March 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

You knew something was up when he stepped out onto the balcony of St Peter's twelve months ago tonight.

'Buona Sera' said the new pope. And the crowd went wild. No Latin, no velvet. A simple pewter cross around his neck and a look of smiling shock on his face.

Pope Francis greets the crowds from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica Credit: Reuters

There is always cheering in St Peter's Square at the election of a new pontiff, but rarely has it ever echoed as long and as loud as it has in the past year.

There is indeed a transformation underway in the church: underlined by the radical personal gestures Pope Francis makes on an almost daily basis.

He's kissed the feet of female Muslim prisoners. He lives in a humble room in a guest hostel in the Vatican, rather than in the papal palace. He drives a second hand car; and has told the police not to move homeless people away from the precincts of St Peter's Square. He tells jokes about mothers-in-law, and encouraged women to breastfeed in the Vatican.

Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Credit: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

And above all else - he gets how to communicate. He has 10 million followers on Twitter - and his messages are rarely lofty religious fare, but simple - such as "don't gossip". He knows the power of image: an embrace of a disfigured man in St Peter's Square; joining a group of teenage girls for a selfie; pulling on a football shirt.

Pope Francis photographed with a Sunderland shirt in St Peter's Square. Credit: Twitter/@frlydensmith

He knows when to toughen his language too - sharply reminding the World Economic Forum in Davos of its duties to the poor: the 'scandal and disgrace" of human trafficking and the "slave labour" of factories in Bangladesh turning out cheap clothes for rich westerners.

Some change too has come to the governance of the Church. A 'G8' group of cardinals appointed to be his advisers, his eyes and ears. A new Vatican Council for the Economy, bringing in a team of lay experts to overhaul its murky and secretive accounts. A Commission on the protection of children, in response to the clerical abuse which has enmired the Church in scandal for so long.

It's these key areas, as well as issues such as homosexuality and the role of women in the Church, in which Pope Francis will come under much scrutiny in the next 12 months of his Papacy. He may have had a heady honeymoon - but there are big questions ahead.

There is little doubt the style and character of the Papacy has undergone a revolution, but change in an institution as ancient as the Catholic Church is rarely as radical, nor as fast.

A year of high hopes, yes: but potentially a far tougher one to follow yet.