Tonawanda News

Columns

September 25, 2013

For the Vatican, pope and change

Tonawanda News — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A previously unknown man rises through the ranks of a hostile political environment upending more polished, conventional figures in a meteoric rise to power. He’s met at every turn by adoring crowds sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands in capitals across the world. A new generation is eager to hear his message.

He’s tasked with turning around an image of a house in disorder, a once revered global brand that’s been besieged by scandal, corruption and petty infighting. 

I’m talking, of course, about Pope Francis.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me before last week but Pope Francis and President Barack Obama share the same compelling narrative.

Call Francis’ version Pope and Change.

Last week, Francis made headlines for his declaration that the Catholic church should free itself from the “small-minded rules” that have come to define it in a 21st century where trust is harder earned and even harder kept. The new world order values individualism at a time when the Catholic church is trying to sell a message of communal faith in a higher power — while only now coming to grips with a sexual abuse scandal that’s spanned the globe and turned even the most faithful into skeptics.

At this early stage in his tenure, it would appear fate — or, if you choose, faith — has deigned to find the right messenger, a humble man who would, if possible, win every convert himself one at a time rather than retreat behind the Vatican’s holy facade and issue directives from on high.

American audiences are no doubt impressed by the tidbits about Francis riding the bus, carrying his own luggage, paying his own bills and taking up residence in a modest flat in the Vatican hotel rather than the papal palace. Personally, I find it refreshing.

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