Why you should care
Popes by definition have huge followings. But Francis is especially charismatic.
He came from the slums of Buenos Aires, and now his flock is the whole wide world: This week, Pope Francis visits the United States, his popemobile snarling traffic all over the Eastern seaboard. Would Francis have wanted such a fuss? Likely not. Francis cultivates a winningly humble persona — a pope for the people.
Within months of his moving to the Vatican, Francis was railing not just against inequality and poverty, but also against the global economic order itself. At its heart was a new idolatry, he said, of money, and its result was exclusion and a growing gap between rich and poor. Indeed, Francis’ November 2013 Apostolic Exhortation presaged a growing worldwide interest in combating economic inequality — a banner taken up shortly afterward by President Obama, Thomas Piketty and a host of others. Read more here.
Francis also has his ideological heirs — among them, Carlos Osoro, the new Vatican appointee to the Madrid Archdiocese. He is liberal and chummy with his followers, even by warm Spanish standards, and (gasp!) he ignores protocol. Por ejemplo: During the oft-pompous processions in the Almudena Cathedral adjacent to the Royal Palace, he is the only one out of two dozen priests who smiles and throws benevolent Catholic gang signs to his flock, while the rest carry themselves regal and solemn. All of this in Madrid, a spot that has historically set trends for Spain and Latin America and influenced the direction of the church. Read more here.
Pope Francis is trying to remake the world in different ways — from making it easier to get marriage annulments to brokering a relationship between the U.S. and Cuba — but one big question remains for the Pope of the people: Will we see women admitted to the priesthood during his papacy? A young German woman named Jacqueline Straub has been urging the pope along in that direction. It won’t be easy. Not only has the Roman Catholic Church specifically outlawed the possibility of women becoming priests, but it has also banned even discussing it formally. Read more here.