Some popes just do it right.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has been heralded worldwide for his unconventional and refreshing attitude as a religious leader since winning the Papal Election on March 13, 2013. Looking at his actions thus far, this positive sentiment is no surprise.
Indeed several things about this Godly man may come as a revelation. For instance, he was named Esquire’s Best Dressed Man of 2013, a living testament to the phrase, “It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it.”
His simple style of dress is a sharp contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who preferred to be decked out in custom-made red leather shoes, gravity defying headgear and copious amounts of jewels.
Pope Francis also chose not to move into the grandiose apostolic apartments as per tradition, but rather into the modest Casa Santa Marta — a Vatican residence which is meant to house visiting clergy and laypeople.
He stated in his first worldwide interview that the main reason for this choice was to enjoy proximity to other people, jesting that he was saving a lot of psychiatric medical bills living in Casa Santa Marta, which has about 130 rooms and is usually teeming with religious visitors. He explained that he enjoys meeting the new people and dining with them in the common dining hall.
His down to earth demeanour has been especially well received by members of the population suffering from poverty or illness. One such man, a Northern Italian named Vinicio Riva, experienced the Pope’s indiscriminate love for people firsthand.
Riva has neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition which covers his body in boils and growths. Upon seeing him, Pope Francis embraced and kissed Riva in a gesture that astonished the world.
Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Pope took the fitting name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, Patron of the Poor, who utilized simple and powerful gestures to guide his people.
Pope Francis aims to lessen disparity within society, stating that our modern world has a “ferocious adoration of money” and tends to forget those living outside of the inner bubble of amity and affluence.
Francis desires to approach the Papacy with a more human perspective. This inspiring viewpoint seems to stem from his upbringing, which yet again differs from most before him in his position. Born in Argentina, he is the first non-European Pope in 1200 years and the first Jesuit Pope. He spent his younger years teaching literature, sweeping floors, working in a lab and even guarding the door at a nightclub in Buenos Aires. Past Pontiffs hailing from Europe emanated wealthy theological academia, focused on economic interests of the Church and doctrinal police work.
Pope Francis’s focus is on repairing the connection between the people and the Church.
“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and clinging to its own security,” he said. These are poignant words considering the Catholic Church’s shady paedophilic history.
During a closed door meeting on Nov. 29, 2013 with 120 superiors of the Vatican, Francis cautioned against accepting men into priesthood who may have been implicated for sexual abuse in the past. On the priests within the Catholic Church, he commented that “We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters, and then these little monsters mold the people of God.”
Calling some of the Catholic Priest newsmakers “little monsters” is a gargantuan understatement, but this man is doing a very good job on all other fronts.
His security force has been coping as best they can with his social temperament, with heads of security admitting that Pope Francis’s objection to more protective measures has caused extra stress.
He removed the protective glass covering the popemobile (yes, the popemobile) and traveled through St. Peters square with his windows rolled down, touching hands with everyone he could, likening the Church to a mother and the people of the Church as her children.
Pope Francis expressed displeasure with the enclosure, saying, “When you go to see someone you love, are you going to visit them inside a glass box? … No, I came to visit people and I want to treat them like people.”
In another instance, he allowed a 6-year-old Colombian boy to remain on stage with him, thwarting his exhausted guards, holding onto his robes and legs and even taking a moment to clamber into the his chair and smile for the crowd. The Pope even participated in a selfie with some teenage supporters.
The pontiff has expressed forward thinking views on homosexuality, women in the Church and the abolition of the call for priestly celibacy. Although he is not currently lobbying hard for total reform of arcane views, he is supportive and non-judgemental of people from all walks of life. Who knows what views he’ll change and alter while he remains as Pope.