Ever since Pope Francis was elected in March 2013, the Argentinian native has been making waves both inside and outside the Catholic community. Deemed as the modern, liberal leader of the Catholic Church by the media (“The People’s Pope”), most of Francis’ opinions are popular with younger followers of the religion. He even famously stated, “Who am I to judge how they sin?” in regards to the LGBTQ community. His recent Sept. 22-27 trip to the U.S. made a lasting impression on religious followers across the country, including students here at FGCU.
Caleb Courville, a junior who serves as the promotional coordinator of the Student Catholic Organization, believes that while the Pope’s more current ideals are upsetting older followers, he has made an impact on their club.
“I think he’s a great guy, and the things he talks about should be talked about,” Courville said. “He’s bringing up a lot of good points, and he’s waking people up on both sides of the spectrum.”
The 266th pope of the Catholic Church first landed in our nation’s capital and met with President Barack Obama on Sept. 23. He then visited New York City to lead a prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, first sending prayers to the Muslim community, as they had just began Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice. He wrapped up his first trip to the United States by visiting Philadelphia.
His Holiness made a huge impact on the U.S. during his stay. “Popemania” grew with the release of his own set of emojis, 52 adorable, little animated versions of Francis standing with a variety of famous American landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty. There’s even one of him eating what looks like a Philly cheesesteak.
Which raises the question: What is with our obsession with the Pope? How different is he really from the previous leaders of the Catholic Church?
For starters, he’s way more down to Earth. In his first few months as the leader of the Catholic Church, he refused to wear fur-lined capes, and immediately after his election, he rode in a bus with the other cardinals instead of the bulletproof Mercedes that previous popes have traveled in. He doesn’t even live in the Apostolic House. Instead, residing in a small guest house and he occasionally eats meals in the Vatican’s cafeteria.
He’s also the first pope to use the term “gay” instead of “homosexuals.” Francis was named “Person of the Year” by “The Advocate,” a gay and lesbian news magazine, in 2013. More recently, during his trip to the States, he promoted the combating of climate change.
“We Christians, together with other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator,” Francis said. “In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good.”
Pope Francis has even said that his intention is to decentralize the church, thus giving the pope’s role less emphasis.
So, in a nutshell, he cares about the environment, the gays, wants to dismiss the luxurious stereotype that comes with being the pope and he accepts that other religions have large followings. That’s pretty amazing, considering that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, talked about gays as “underdeveloped” and also recovered a prayer called the Tridentine Mass, which asks God to “lift the veil” over the eyes of followers of the Jewish faith.
In his first two years, Pope Francis has made great strides to achieve a more modern Catholic Church and reach a more diverse audience. Francis has given religion a new name, and both Catholics and those who don’t follow religion are eager to see what the Argentinian native will do next.