Pope Francis is the best thing to happen to journalism’s “God beat” in years. From his “Who am I to judge?” comments during an off-the-cuff question-and-answer session on a plane to his penchant for selfies with young people, the leader of the Roman Catholic church keeps religion reporters churning out copy.
Take Sundays off.
Turn off the TV.
Don’t be a jerk. (Actually this one was, “Stop being negative.”)
Here’s another top 10 list, this time of the Pope’s greatest hits of the past two years.
One of Pope Francis’s first stops was to the hotel where he’d stayed during the papal conclave to pay his bill and pick up his bags. Reportedly the pope wanted to make sure he was setting a good example.
“He then stopped in the office, greeted everyone and decided to pay the bill for the room . . . because he was concerned about giving a good example of what priests and bishops should do,” a Vatican spokesman told reporters.
Everybody wants a picture taken with the pope, from young people in Rome to pilgrims in South Korea. And Pope Francis looks like he’s having the time of his life indulging them — unlike his predecessor, who seems less than enthused with the selfie craze.
No thanks, says Francis, who rode on the bus with the cardinals after being elected. He bought a used car last year to ride around the Vatican. In public, he’s ridden in a Kia and what looks more like the back of pickup truck than an armored car.
“It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” he told reporters.
Last week, the Vatican announced plans for three showers to be installed near St. Paul’s Cathedral. The showers are intended for the homeless to use.
“A Big Heart Open to God,” reads the headline to Francis’s first major interview with America magazine. When asked, who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio? — the Pope’s given name — he said, simply, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” When he talks to the press or the people, it’s clear that this pope never takes himself too seriously — and seems grateful for the grace he’s received.
5. His sense of wonder
“God is full of surprises,” Francis said in sermon earlier this year. “Am I open to the God of surprises? Am I a person who stands still, or a person on a journey?”
Francis seems to genuinely love being a pastor, always open to the idea that God is at work in the world.
4. Cleaning up scandals
The Vatican Bank was a train wreck when Francis took office, with accusations of mismanagement and fraud, including a top official who has been charged by Italian police with money laundering.
No more. The new pope cleaned house, installed new leaders, and refused to sweep things under the rug.
3. The phone calls
Not long after being elected Pope, Francis called home to Buenos Aires to cancel his daily newspaper delivery. “Hi Daniel, it’s Cardinal Jorge,” the pope reportedly told shop owner Daniel Del Regno.
Francis has shown that same personal touch in the months since, calling an Argentinian woman who had questions about the church’s teaching on divorce, some Spanish nuns, and even a newspaper editor he wanted to chat with. He also stopped by this summer to have lunch with some workers at the Vatican.
2. His Twitter feed
“Pope Francis is a verified social media saint,” says the website Vocativ.com. He has millions of followers on Twitter who’ve made him “the most retweeted person” on the planet. His pithy comments remind us how God connects to daily life.
“There is so much noise in the world!” he tweeted on November 18. “May we learn to be silent in our hearts and before God.”
1. Whatever he does tomorrow.
Image courtesy of giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com.