One does not have to be Catholic in order to appreciate the progress taking place in the Vatican. In the case of Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, it seems that his and heart seem more open to the struggles and changes that his predecessors failed to address in an open-minded manner.
I am not terribly religious by any means, but the pope has made me stop and pay attention to the activities of the Catholic church. For so long in my mind, Catholicism has been a religion steeped in ancient traditions-beautiful ,yes, but archaic. However, this new religious leader is pulling a religion with outdated perspectives into the light of the 21st century. Instead of judging people, or trying to thrust God upon them, he chooses to enlighten by preaching equality and acceptance.
As the saying goes, practice what you preach. For Francis, his desire for a simpler church begins with himself as a person. Francis eschews the papal traditions of extravagance, saying “How I would love a church that is poor and for the poor” according to the National Catholic Reporter.
He has also replaced the papal Mercedes with a Ford Focus, a sign that he is paying attention to the expectations of the people.
The Catholic church’s opulence has long been criticized, such as when the Archbishop of Atlanta purchased a 2.2 million dollar estate in Buckhead, but Pope Francis does not hold with such luxuries. Having expressed the ideas that a simpler lifestyle allows you to be closer to God, he lives in a simple two-room apartment versus the Apostolic Palace inhabited by his predecessor and he wears regular black shoes instead of the traditional red velvet slippers.
Pope Francis’s opinion on his simple lifestyle is as such “My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people, and from reading the signs of the times according to La Civilta Cattolica.
His humble background has people relating and USA Today calling Pope Francis “the coolest pope ever.” Upon the revelation that as a student, he worked as a bouncer for a nightclub in Buenos Aires, it just further proof that he is a real person and that he had struggles and a life before his position. With 71 percent of students working while they’re in school, this makes it much easier for the younger generation – Catholic or not – to feel a connection with him.
Also in an effort to stay ‘tuned in’ with his followers, Pope Francis follows his predecessor, Pope Benedict’s footsteps and has his own Twitter account (@Pontifex). His latest tweet sent out on May 16 seems to sum up his stance on the church:
“It is better to have a Church that is wounded but out in the streets than a Church that is sick because it is closed in on itself.”
While the Pope does not outwardly support gay marriage, he has given hope to the many LGBTQ individuals who are members of the Church with his quote on gay priests, when he said “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized,the tendency is not the problem. They’re our brothers.”
While he was addressing the matter of gay priests, the Vatican qualified the statement to apply to all LGBTQ citizens. In a time when LGBTQ individuals are still struggling for acceptance and equal rights, for the Pope to acknowledge the struggle and accept them as they are, makes a big difference.
Gradually, Pope Francis appears to be shaping the Vatican with his open-minded approach to religion and his modern ideals that fit in with the times, bringing the Catholic Church into the “now.” As Pope, many see him as the symbolization for the Church itself, so for him to make the effort to increase relatability, changes ideals for political and religious leaders.
This is a man who sneaks out of the Vatican, disguised as a regular priest to feed the poor. He’s unafraid to discuss his life before the position, and he goes out of his way to stay humble while trying to make a difference in the world. I’m confident that anyone, no matter what their religion is, can appreciate the beauty of that.
Disclaimer: All opinions are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of The Signal as a whole.