With 4 million followers on twitter and only one lung, Pope Francis has taken the world by storm and has changed the Catholic Church and its reputation.
Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he became the first Pope from the Americas. He officially became the Pontiff on March 13, 2013, and chose his new papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was known as a champion for the poor.
Pope Francis, through his dedication to the poor and promotion of peace, love, and tolerance, has garnered millions of supporters worldwide, including non-Catholics like me. In the past, I never had a reason to support the Catholic Church, as there was a lot of scandal and hypocrisy but not much personal connection between the Church and the world. It seemed as if the Church was an outmoded institution that did not hold much power and meaning, as they were losing influence over people’s lives while religion continued to play a smaller role in our society.
However, Pope Francis brings vitality and energy back into the Catholic Church, rebuilding its reputation and increasing its presence. With all of the current grandeur of many church members, Pope Francis is different. He refuses to live in the Vatican palace which traditionally, is the Pope’s home, and chooses instead to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse. In addition, he wears plain white clothing without ornamentation, uses public transportation, and flies economy. These humble actions are all radically different from those of previous popes, and make him more relatable to the common man. I greatly admire him for this, especially since Pope Francis speaks out against the clergy’s excessiveness and leads by example.
Also, Pope Francis has made the Catholic Church more liberal, stepping away from its centuries of conservatism and at times, hypocrisy. He returns to the simple doctrine that God loves all that does good, stating that everyone, including atheists, can go to heaven and receive God’s forgiveness. While he upholds the Catholic belief and is against gay marriage, he believes that homosexuals should be treated with love and respect. With these more liberal statements, the Pope is adapting the Catholic Church to the present, instead of letting it become an outdated church that is not in sync with the real world.
The Pope broke gender and religious barriers when he washed and kissed the feet of twelve juvenile convicts on Holy Thursday; among these included women and Muslims. This was the first time that women had been a part of this ritual, making this a revolutionary event. Pope Francis also promotes peace and interfaith cooperation, as seen in his good relations with other religions, including Islam and Judaism.
Among Pope Francis’ admirers is none other than Barack Obama, who stated, “The Holy Father has inspired people all over the world, including me, with his commitment to social just and his message of love and compassion, especially for poorest and most vulnerable among us. When the Pope speaks, his words have an enormous weight.” Indeed, the Pope exerts a great influence on the world, and I’m glad that he is using his power wisely and positively impacting the world.