What has intrigued me most about Pope Francis is not the way in which Catholics - well, most of them, anyway - have embraced him, but the way in which countless Protestants have moved into his fan club.
- Bill Tammeus, NCR
More is at play here than simple celebrity in our overwrought pop culture. At least, I hope so.
The Protestant fascination with him hasn't broken down the many theological, liturgical and structural barriers that still exist between Protestantism and Catholicism, but it has softened them a bit and it has caused some Protestants to want to figure out what makes Francis tick, what Jesuit theology is all about, and what ground we Protestants might share in common with Catholics.
My own congregation is a good example of this phenomenon. Our pastor, Paul Rock, recently began a sermon series he's calling 'Jesus, the Pope and a Protestant Walk Into a Bar.' His sermons, which started Sunday, can be found here.
To alert people to this series, he posted this short video on our church's website. As Paul says in the video, 'This is a pope who has become the People's Pope. ... The fact that Pope Francis has been an inspiration to both Catholics and Protestants I think provides us a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at this Catholic-Protestant divide.'
I suspect that the intense Protestant interest in Francis is a sign that deep in our protesting marrow, there is a yearning for unity and a latent sense of regret that it had to come to all that division in Martin Luther's time and that the divide has never been healed.
FULL STORY Fascination with Francis stirs Protestant hearts (National Catholic Reporter)