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Looking back: Why the world listens to Francis

Pope Francis at Lampedusa

From the moment he greeted the vast crowd after his election in St Peter’s Square with a casual ‘Buona sera’, the new Pope sent a strong message to the world’s media - here was a Pope who would be different.

- By ITN newsreader, Julie Etchingham, in The Tablet.

It was the scoop that most journalists dream about. On 28 February last year, a small press pack was covering a low-key consistory with Pope Benedict.

But at the end of the event, Pope Benedict was handed a piece of paper. In a barely audible voice, he began to read aloud. In Latin.

For a few minutes, only one journalist, Giovanna Chirri, understood what he said – all her years of learning Latin having paid off. As the rest of the press scrambled to check out the translation, Chirri broke the news which made history: Benedict XVI would be the first pope in 600 years to resign.

Once the news was out, the journalists had to grapple with the rest of his statement. 'In order to govern the barque of Peter … both strength of mind and body are necessary.' 

This was one of the most important announcements ever to come from the Vatican, and yet there was an initial struggle to communicate it clearly.

Fast-forward just five months, and St Peter’s barque became, temporarily, a little painted fishing boat upended and turned into an altar.

The man at its helm saying Mass held a chalice fashioned from wood salvaged from another ship, which had carried immigrants from Africa through dangerous waters to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The celebrant was Pope Francis.

He had chosen to make his first official visit out of Rome to highlight the desperate plight of immigrants risking their lives to come to Europe – hundreds of whom never make it.

As the pictures were beamed around the world, it was clear that Church communications were being transformed.

Here was a man prepared to rock the boat.

If the media didn’t get it, here was a Pope who would spell it out. Engagement with the media have fast become one of the signature elements of Francis’ papacy. 

Nuggets of spirituality, plainly expressed or a snapshot of an encounter with a person in need. Whether by word or image, he is simply and constantly pushing his core messages of love, mercy and care for the poor.

Its power lies in its authenticity.

PHOTO: Pope Francis kisses a baby as he arrives at Lampedusa, 2013 - Getty images.

READ FULL ARTICLE: Why the world listens (The Tablet)

More coverage:

Faith, hope—and how much change? (The Economist)

How to really measure the 'Francis effect' (CNN)

Pope Francis: I’ve done things well - I’ve done things wrong (The Vancouver Sun)

Pope Francis' First Year (NCR)

The People's Pope (America)

Pope Francis is ‘making me think about my life’ (The Globe and Mail)

Pope Francis - the first year: Is the rebel too good to be true? (The Independent)

Pope Francis wants you to get over him (The Washington Post)

Style is not enough (The Tablet)

Francis becomes first pope to land a Rolling Stone cover (AFP/South China Morning Post)

Par petites touches, le pape François fait avancer sa réforme de l'Eglise (Le Monde)

Avec le pape François, la morale remise à sa « juste place » (La Croix)


What makes Pope Francis 'Person of the Year'? (ABC Radio National)


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