Last month I wrote a post analyzing the National Geographic cover story entitled “Pope Francis Remakes the Vatican”. I read the article skeptically, expecting to come away feeling frustrated with slanted reporting, and still knowing hardly anything about what Pope Francis was actually doing. Instead, I found myself enjoying the inside look at the Pope shared by author Robert Draper, who stayed in Rome for six months observing the Holy Father’s daily life. As Pope Francis’s visit to the United States approaches, I would like to briefly share three new things I realized after reading the article.
1. Pope Francis is Human
As obvious as this seems, I never stopped to consider the full implication behind this. As the Pope, it is easy to expect him to be a saint already, to only speak the truth perfectly, to completely adjust to a different lifestyle without a glitch, to effortlessly guide the entire universal Church without ever having a moment of weakness or difficulty. But as Draper reviewed some of the radical moments of Pope Francis’s first months, showing how he grew and developed into his position, I realized how hard it must have been for him to transition. When I looked back at his decisions and seemingly radical choices in light of his humanity, it was easier to see him as a man trying to do his best, but realizing that he no longer had the freedom to reach out in the online casino ways he had previously.
2. Pope Francis is Solidly Catholic
He is not changing doctrine, not redefining what it means to be Catholic, and not trying to soften the rules by bending them. Pope Francis is reaching out in sympathy to a world which he realizes is hurting, which he knows will not turn to an institution which only seems interested in judging them. He is not saying or doing anything that the Church has not done all along. He is proud of the Catholic faith, and when questioned about his strong statements in support of her doctrines—statements the news will not report—he shows compassion but does not waver.
3. Pope Francis is In Love
The Holy Father is in love with the children of God, whether or not they are Catholic. He is trying to show the world that God is reaching out to them through the Church, not to scold them, but to love them. Pope Francis wants to be like Mother Teresa on the streets with the poor and heartbroken. While he has learned that he can no longer be on the streets without celebrity attention, he has also realized that he can use that attention to show the hurting world a different side of the Church. He can focus on how God’s beloved children are suffering, and show them loving compassion while gently guiding them back to the narrow way, which has been the focus of his papacy.
Though no one knows better than Catholics the danger of believing the media at its word, the constant misrepresentation of the Pope can leave even Catholics a little apprehensive. Yet after learning the reason and passion behind the Pope’s activity, I know now that I can trust his actions. He is the shepherd of the Church after all, and following Christ’s example, he is going after the lost sheep who have forgotten that the Shepherd not only loves them, but misses them. God came for every man, and Pope Francis simply wants to world to remember.
My full analysis of the National Geographic article and more commentary on the spirit behind his actions can be found in my post last month, entitled “Pope Francis Remakes the Vatican?”