pope is one of the most photographed of all celebrities. Media professionals,
not to mention thousands upon thousands of fans, delight in capturing the moment
while attending a general audience or during a pastoral trip.
there is no red carpet, no Haute Couture: but a white robe, recognizable at a
glance whether on St. Peter’s Square in Rome,or in an African or South American
II was an undeniably a photogenic pope. Early in his papacy, he appeared
athletic, vibrant, speaking to WYD crowds, meditating on his cross, hood
blowing in the wind.
abound, making countless albums. Even more remarkable, he accepted, at the end
of his life, to show his face as it was, haggard by sickness and old age, and
his diminished, crippled body. Benedict XVI was more timid,more
reserved,no doubt uncomfortable being constantly exposed. As for Francis, he
has become another paparazzi’ favorite.
pope’s austere face lights up when he smiles, and there is a bounce to his
slightly heavy gait whenever he greets the men, women and children who come to
him. We have observed all this during three years of papacy. It has been said
that Francis is a builder of bridges rather than walls.
media greeted his election with enthusiasm, acclaiming this South American pope
who, by his first words and gestures,demonstrated another way of inhabiting
this function,of “doing the job”, everyone wondered how long this ambient
goodwill could last vis-à-vis the head of a readily criticized and unpopular
Catholic Church. When would Francis start losing points – like so many global
moment, at the end of an exhausting trip, would he answer journalists’
questions with an off-hand remark that would take off around the world,
creating a buzz because the pope would have reaffirmed the Church’s teaching?
But for the moment, he is still enjoying
wide-spread indulgence (no doubt a poorly chosen word under the circumstances).
The Laudato si’ encyclical, sent out not only to
Catholics but to all well-intentioned men and women, published at the same time
as the COP21 meeting on climate change, no doubt has something to do with
it.While at the same time (but not exactly in parallel, because these lines
eventually meet), Francis invited us to celebrate a Year of Mercy.
The pope, in his manner of being and
speaking, manages to embody a Church that is both mater and magistra, teaching
and maternal. He calls on conversion, on prayer, on reading of the Word, on the
demands of Christian commitment, but he is also the spokesman for the goodness
of God. His coherence in words and actions reach beyond religious boundaries,
because the world needs these kinds of witnesses.
But the pope is not, and does not want
to be, a new idol. We must avoid papolatry that
would only annoy us with a different pope.
His person and his personality do not
overshadow the message, do not eclipse the injunction to carry the joy of the
Gospel to others; on the contrary, they guide our eyes towards Jesus Christ Superstar.