Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Francis shines in our superficial world

  • Print

It is a sad state of affairs to find Pope Francis on the cover of Time as the magazine’s Person of the Year.

Across the land, people are gaga for this man who is a champion of the poor, who preaches compassion and tolerance, who holds and kisses a disfigured man and washes the dirty feet of female prisoners.


Are we so beaten down by the greed, corruption, deviance and narcissism in our culture that we’re going to name a holy man Person of the Year for acting like a holy man?

What next? A major award to water for being wet?

We must be absolutely starved for inspiration when we celebrate this man for the simple, humble act of doing his job. In fact, that’s exactly what we are. Desperate for the mercy, kindness and forgiveness personified by Nelson Mandela or Pope Francis.

The Francis effect is palpable everywhere I go, across the region and across religions.

"He’s a good guy!" said a Lutheran I talked to on a school playground.

"He seems like a really good man," said a Baptist usher at the Kennedy Center in Washington. "I really like his message, even though I’m a Baptist."

"Finally, you have someone good," said a Jewish friend who feels sorry for us embattled Catholics.

The other day, James Searby, a Catholic priest at St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington, Va., was pulled into a lively conversation about Pope Francis in a coffee shop with a Buddhist and an atheist who also happened to be waiting for their cups of joe.

"That wouldn’t have happened before," Searby said.

In that way, Searby said, Pope Francis is the embodiment of his Twitter handle: @Pontifex, Latin for bridge builder.

Did you happen to see the photos making the rounds on Facebook that compared Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, sitting in the same spot in the Vatican?

Pope Benedict had those red Prada shoes poking out from under his cassock. He wore a gold embroidered, fur-trimmed stole, a gold ring and a diamond-and-ruby-encrusted cross. The throne looks like it’s right out of a Versace ad: gold, tall and with fat, gold cherubs holding up each arm.

But Pope Francis? He’s no Bishop of Bling. He’s wearing black pants and black shoes. The throne is a simple wooden chair, the ring silver and the cross iron.

And then it comes out that instead of knocking back a glass of wine in the evenings with his Vatican pals, this pope dresses in disguise at night and roams the streets of Rome ministering to the city’s homeless.

No wonder his poll numbers are through the roof: a 92 per cent approval rating among Catholics in a recent Washington Post-ABC poll. He’s hotter than Miley Cyrus on Facebook.

How can you not love this guy? And that brings me back to how sad it is that Pope Francis is such a phenomenon.

Why is he so dazzling?

Because we live in a culture that has largely accepted greed and bad behavior as the norm. And I’m not just talking about the Catholic Church, which has been beset by a long-running pedophilia scandal that has driven congregants away in droves.

We wallow in a world of Kardashian and Honey Boo Boo. We feast on snark, scandal and scorn.

We ho-hum our way through one jaw-dropping scandal after another. A congressman buying cocaine? A Senate staffer hoarding child pornography? A police officer running a prostitution ring with runaways? They’ll be out of the news cycle quicker than a Lady Gaga outfit change.

And when faced with a moment that should speak to the triumph of the human spirit — Nelson Mandela’s memorial service — we instantly muck it up with a faux selfie scandal soaked in a side of deaf translator jokes.

We hear all the time about pastors who own Rolls-Royces and private jets, who preach the gospel of prosperity and choke their wives and sexually assault children. They keep collecting people’s money because they tell folks what they want to hear.

They don’t challenge us to be our best selves, to show compassion to the homeless or the poor or people who don’t come from the same place we do.

So instead, we try to wash ourselves of the world’s sins now available to us on 4G with cute kitten videos and baby pics to make ourselves feel better. But that isn’t going to do it.

We need virtue. Generosity. Kindheartedness.

Why is Upworthy — which blasts out tear-jerker videos that go viral on Facebook — so popular? Because our souls are starving.

And even though Pope Francis is just doing his job — a man of the cloth showing humility, compassion, tolerance and love — he challenges all of us to stop and try harder, to be better, even when it’s difficult.

It will be a righteous world when Pope Francis isn’t so special.


— The Washington Post


Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Trouba talks about injury and potential for Jets

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.
  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google