The Pope, leader of the world’s Catholic community, rivals the influence of nearly every other leader on the planet. So far though, Pope Francis has carried himself humbly, speaking to Catholics as friends and equals.
His first exclusive interview, published Sept. 19 in the Jesuit-based America magazine and in 16 countries worldwide, was not just for Catholics, but for people of all faiths. It demonstrated once again how relatable Pope Francis is.
I promise you that I am no expert on Catholic teachings. Certainly, I went through the sacraments as a child and teenager and attended Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, multiple mission trips and retreats. My thoughts on the interview come from a perspective of a pretty typical American Catholic, but I think that’s exactly who Pope Francis was speaking to.
Here’s what resonated with me from Pope Francis’ interview:
1. “What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying,” Pope Francis said.
When asked who he was, he didn’t say he is the highest position in the Catholic church. He said he was a sinner, like all humans are. When asked how he likes to pray, he admitted that he too falls asleep during prayer. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who’s drifted off during adoration.
It’s inspiring how humble this man is. He doesn’t see himself any differently than anyone else.
2. “Laboratories are useful, but reflection for us must always start from experience,” Pope Francis said.
The biggest point I took away from the interview is that Pope Francis is encouraging people to make waves. He’s worked with the poor. He spoke to the idea in his interview that we have no hope to make a positive change in others’ lives if we only talk about what others have learned instead of experiencing it for ourselves.
He said that in order to learn how to help others and how to be an active Christian you need to experience the world in a radical way. Don’t just give money to the poor, spend an afternoon with them. Hear their pains; love them.
3. “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?”
While many people were surprised about his words on how we need to love people regardless of their sexual orientation, I wasn’t. Yes, it hasn’t been said in this manner before by a Pope. But isn’t that what Jesus did, love the ones who were hated by all?
It’s nothing different than from what I learned in my church and home. We’re all called to love and care for one another, no exceptions or stipulations attached.
Pope Francis thinks differently than popes of the past, but I think this is just the start of what good he’s going to encourage Catholics to do; to reach beyond just the regular Sunday churchgoers.
Based on the information I found, it appears most of the pope’s followers may be ready for such a change of thinking in the church. According to a survey conducted by the PEW Research Center, 79 percent of Catholics in September find Pope Francis favorable, a five percent decline from when he entered the papacy in March 2013. Fifty-eight percent of the general public who answered the survey said they found him favorable in September, a one percent increase from March 2013.
These reflections are what I’ve taken away from the interview. I encourage you to read it for yourself to see what you take away from it.
Caroline Rode can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.