feature for a good part of his career as a bishop in Argentina. He speaks in a plain fashion which is easily understood by almost everyone, even when translated from his native Spanish to English. He’s not afraid to cause a commotion. Perhaps the best example of his tendency to speak his mind, even when it appears to deviate from long-held church doctrine, occurred shortly after his installation as pope when he responded to a question about gay priests with the line “Who am I to judge?” ( I should also point out that this remark inspired the cleverest t-shirt design I observed that day, which portrayed Philly’s two most renowned cheesesteak joints, Pat’s and Geno’s – side by side, with Pope Francis’s “Who am I to judge?” statement emblazoned above. An instant Classic. Needless to say, I now own it.) 3
“The main reason I believe Americans in particular seem so drawn to Pope Francis is that he seems to be genuinely ‘down-to-earth’.” As I observed the hundreds of thousands around me, kneeling and praying, I found myself asking...What exactly is the source of the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s remarkable popularity? I attribute his appeal to the following factors:
At the end of the day, the main reason that I believe Americans in particular seem so drawn to Pope Francis is that he seems to be genuinely “down-to-earth.” I will be forever grateful that my daughter and I had the opportunity to spend an especially memorable day in his company.
Pope Francis does things differently. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. You can’t underestimate the effect of his actions immediately after he was elected pope. He chose the name Francis – a first, named in honor of the beloved Francis of Assisi, a Saint known for his love of animals and for living in accordance with the vow of poverty. He ditched the red shoes that prior popes had worn, and he moved out of the Apostolic Palace and into more humble digs, where he would have to actually mingle with other “plain folks” every day. Most importantly, Francis’s emphasis on the poor has met with great acclaim throughout the world. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. It’s clear to anyone watching that his eyes light up when he’s around the most vulnerable members of our society, especially children and the elderly. 1
He says things differently. Unlike some of our past popes who were more intellectual or theological in tone, Francis speaks and writes like a pastor – which is exactly what he was 2
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