BY ROBERT MORALES
Pope Francis made Time magazineâ€™s Person of the Year in 2013. Now, heâ€™s on the most recent cover of Rolling Stone. So, whatâ€™s all the fuss over the new pope?
In a very short time, Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Buenos Aires, Argentina) has displayed an extraordinary ability to connect with the masses, something that had been sorely missing with previous popes, with the exception of Pope John Paul I.
From the outset, Pope Francis signaled that he would be a very different leader for the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. Francis has separated himself from stodgy Vatican traditions. For example, he chose to live in the papal guest house instead of the papal palace.
Francis has not been shy about engaging in the political arena, something previous popes have avoided because of potential fallout. Unlike Pope Benedict, the first pope to resign the papacy in more than 700 years, Francis truly enjoys surrounding himself with people.
For those Catholics who became disenchanted with the Churchâ€™s hard line stances on many issues, not to mention Church dogma, Francis has extended an open arm to them, and they have responded — in droves. Why? The simple answer is that Francis has the uncanny gift of communication.
The youth, generally a standoffish group when it comes to religion, have embraced Pope Francis and his message of simplicity. It is this simplicity that has made a huge impression on Catholics and non-Catholics.
Nonetheless, even as his popularity continues to soar, he is not without critics. Some have called him a Marxist and others have labeled him a liberal. Those labels are generally assigned to politicians, but if trying to follow in the steps of Jesus and his acts of kindness and compassion for the poor and the downtrodden, Pope Francis would likely welcome being called a liberal.
His papacy cannot be confined to trite labels or name-calling. The significance of this papacy is monumental; it is a renaissance. He makes us reflect on teachings of Jesus, and as much as detractors would love to sidetrack Francis, their argument falls on deaf ears because if the detractors are truly “Christians,â€ then they would see that Francis is the real deal.
He has taken Christianity and simplified it so that all of us will keep it top of mind that how we treat others in this world will determine our fate on Judgment Day.