In answer to the implicit question, how has Pope Francis inspired (and intrigued) me during this first year, I would answer: he has shown the human face of holiness, writes Francis Phillips in The Catholic Herald.
There has been a spate of articles this last week examining every aspect of the first year of Pope Francis’s pontificate. Suffice to say, he has generated an enormous amount of publicity that goes well beyond his very public office. If you examine the media interest in the first year of the pontificates of both his immediate predecessors, you do not find this feverish interest.
John Paul II was also a relative unknown; he was seen as an intellectual heavyweight and a man of immense energy, ready to engage with the press – but he was not a “conversational” pope in the ordinary meaning of the word. Benedict XVI was already famous as head of the CDF. He carried his reputation before him and his papal style did not alter; shy, precise, learned, he remained an enigma to the secular world.
But Pope Francis is in sharp contrast to these recent popes. What causes a buzz of excitement in the media (and inspiration or dismay among his flock, depending on your viewpoint) is his very humanity and candour, his willingness to be personal, his admission of weakness. He has brought his exalted office down to earth in a way that hasn’t happened before. John XXIII started to do this: remember his joke when he was asked how many people worked in the Vatican? “About half of them,” he responded, with more than a grain of truth. But his pontificate was short and dominated by Vatican II and his last illness.
Now, and in answer to the implicit question, how has Pope Francis inspired (and intrigued) me during this first year, I would answer: he has shown the human face of holiness. To be able to radiate an absorption in the Gospel with an unabashed simplicity, is a difficult feat – most especially if you hold a position which means that the world’s eyes are on you at all times, waiting for a slip-up or gaffe. This is Pope Francis’s charism, his gift – and this is why the media, ravenous for news but also trying to decipher his personality, is paying attention to him.