WHY POPE FRANCIS MATTERS
When the ordinary Catholic sees a title like: “Why Pope Francis Matters” he or she is liable to think: Of course, he matters. He is the Pope! That would be true of any Pope really. He is the head of the Church and the Catholic Church as 1.3 billion people scattered across every nation on earth. And that would be true not only of him but any Pope. But Pope Francis has become a spokesman for not just Catholicism, but all Christians (which still make up 1/3 of the earth’s population – the largest Religion on Earth). By going back to the Gospel basics and creating a warm and inviting view of Christianity, he has emerged favorable considered by the Orthodox and many of our Protestant brothers and sisters. No other faith can say that one person can speak for so many people. When I was on Sabbatical I was late for an event in Rome and had to take a taxi. When the taxi driver saw that I was a priest he started talking a mile a minute. While not a Churchgoer he said in Italian: You picked a good one this time. I was a little stunned at this opinion since it was unasked for and so strongly put. Pope Francis speaks to the man on the street and in a simple and effective way gets his point across. By doing that consistently he is causing more and more people to nod in approval – and not all of these are Catholic. After election and installation, a priest friend of mine said he missed Pope Benedict’s daily penetrating and theologically riveting homilies.
I agreed that Benedict had a great gift and that he may be considered one of the Doctors of the Church at some point. But, I added, the man on the street (and in the cab) could not understand what he was saying. But Francis began his pontificate by asking for the people’s blessing and then proceeded by word and action to be a man of the people. Not as demagogue but as he truly is: a simple priest that speaks like a humble Pastor and connects with even non-Catholics. This singular advantage can make him very effective in International relations and as a voice of conscience for the world. We have been blessed with truly great and holy Popes in our lifetime: Pius XII, Saint John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis. What a holy line up! But Francis brings the Papacy to the cabbie, the prisoner, the outcast. In simple, authentic, faith filled ways. Thank God for the Holy Spirit!