The People’s Pope Francis


By Prof. Talaat I. Farag





TIME magazine selected Pope Francis as the person of the year for 2013 and dedicated an issue to him on
December 23, 2013. The man who came from Buenos Aires, Argentina with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome kissed the face of a disfigured man and washed the feet of a Muslim woman.



In less than a year, he has done some remarkable things. Nancy Gibb, who wrote the article for TIME said “he has not changed the world, but has changed the music. He retired the Papal Mercedes in favor of a scuffed up Ford Focus.


Since his assumption of the Papacy, his name, Francesco, has become the most popular baby name in Italy. The pope had chosen his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th century patron saint of the poor. His namesake had once given up his prosperous silk-merchant family to live with the poor. He was also known to be a peacemaker. The first Catholic leader to travel to Egypt to try and end the Crusades.


He spends most of his time taking care of sick persons who come to him for prayer. He is not a Marxist but he’s a liberal.


The humble Argentinean cardinal who moved to the Vatican was highly impressed by the late Nelson Mandela, the hero of forgiveness after his 28 year prison sentence.


On the occasion of Mandela’s death, Pope Francis sent this heartfelt message to the people of South Africa:       


“It was with sadness that I learned of the death of former President Nelson Mandela, and I send prayerful condolences to all the Mandela family, to the members of the Government and to all the people of South Africa. In commending the soul of the deceased to the infinite mercy of Almighty God, I ask the Lord to console and strengthen all who mourn his loss. Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations. With these sentiments, I invoke upon all the people of South Africa divine gifts of peace and prosperity.”


Embracing Humanitarianism


While not committing the Catholic church to ordaining women as clergy, Pope Francis recognized that women must play a more instrumental role in the institution. He credits a nun for saving his life when he was hospitalized with lung disease. He often expresses his affinity for the Virgin Mary, whom he describes as the mother of the church and sees advancement in the church anchored in the elevation of the status of woman. He was quoted in an interview with Civita Cattolica saying, “The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”


Pope Francis has proven that the head of the church can be both a humanitarian and a humanist. His call for the church to avoid unnecessary obsession with areas of contention that are not of greatest concern to people of the world, has shattered the divisions between “believers” and “non-believers.” On one occasion, he was quotes as saying that the Lord came to “redeem all” not just Catholics, “including athiests.” This was seen as a welcome reaching out to all not just adherents of the faith.


Pope Francis is highly interested in healing the many problems that have plagued child abuse, anti-contraception movement, anti-abortion movements, and homosexuality.


The spiritual leader of more than 1.2 billion Catholic Christians is praying for a peaceful world and appears very annoyed with what is happening in the some countries in the Middle East, particularly in Syria. The autumn that followed the Arab Spring has led him to call for prayer for inter-religious dialogue and the rise of global peace for everyone.


The People's Pope Photo Gallery


Pope Francis By Travis Gettys
Before becomes Pope Francis, Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio touches a baby after a 2011 Mass in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Source: AP).


As Cardinal Bergoglio, prior to becoming Pope Francis I, he visited an AIDS hospice in 2001, where he kissed the feet of this sick child.



Pope Francis kisses a baby while riding in the popemobile along Copacabana beach on his way to the Way of the Cross
during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro July 26, 2013 (Source: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano).


Pope Francis wears an indigenous feathered hat given to him by representatives of one of Brazil's native tribes during his visit to Rio de Janeiro on July 27, 2013.

Pope Francis washes the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention center of Casal del Marmo, Rome, Thursday, March 28, 2013 (Source: Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano).


Pope Francis embracing 8-year-old Dominic Gondreau, who has cerebral palsy (Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AP)




Pope embraces young woman during encounter with youth in Cagliari, Sardinia
A young woman meets Pope Francis after his speech (Photo: Courtesy of CNS).



Pope Francis hugs a man with neurofibromatosis in Saint Peter's Square at the end of his General Audience
in Vatican City, November 6, 20
13 (Photo: Claudio Peri/Nacion).


Pope Francis smiles as a child removes his zucchetto, or skullcap, during the Pope's tour of the Santa Marta Vatican Institute's pediatric centre (Source: AP).



Refusing to budge: The little boy clung on to the Pope's leg as he gave an address to the assembled crowds

A 6-years-old orphan child identified only as the 'boy in yellow' walks on stage and hugs Pope Francis as he speaks to the crowds in St Peter's Square during a Vatican celebration for families (Photo: AFP/OSSERVATORE ROMANO). The boy moves around the stage freely throughout the speech and also decides to sit on the pope's chair. (Source: TV grab/AP).

Prof. Talaat I. Farag, MD, FRCP, FACP, FACMG is a former adjunct professor at Dalhousie University in Canada. He is the founder of The Ambassadors Research Foundation in 1998. Email: drfarag@ambassadors.net and tfarag@dal.ca.



Join our Facebook Group