Now, I have to admit that this Pope is catching my attention more than any Pope that came before.
Shhh! I can't say that too loudly, because my girlfriend is Polish, and over there, Pope John Paul II, the only Polish Pope in history, is a revered figure that has attained a status almost of sainthood!
But seriously, Pope Francis is sounding more and more like what I imagine a prominent religious leader for about two billion people should sound like. He is taking to task the wasteful consumerist mentality that we take for granted here in the West, but which seems to be spreading fast around the globe.
The latest was rather a bombshell: he called absolute capitalism a "tyranny", and reminded the very rich of their obligation to share their wealth, rather than horde it all.
Why, that is a message that sounds like it came from a Christian who actually took the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount seriously, rather than as some mere window dressing. Pope Francis I is sounding like someone who actually is not merely playing the game of politics once he gets into the highest office of his faith, but is actually placing faith before politics!
It is not the first time that I am writing in admiration of this man, and of course, the church has been mired in myriad controversies now for well over a decade - and these controversies, such as abuse of young boys, are far from resolved. Nor has Pope Francis I exactly resolved these issues, either.
But what he is focusing on is modernizing Catholicism, and reminding practitioners of the greater spirit of charity that was not some minor point in the religion, but the basis of it to begin with. It is supposed to make followers better people. How can that happen, though, when the Papacy itself becomes just one more political office, with political ambitions outweighing moral concerns? After all, making compromises with fascism back in the days of World War II, when it was already generally known that Germany was practicing a policy of extermination of Jews, is not putting the value of human beings before politics.
So, for that matter, is glossing over today's evils of simply ignoring the growing inequality between rich and poor. How convenient for these men to sit on their golden thrones, inside of a palace in a city that is, technically, it's own country, and which owns vast riches and wealth, even while many, if not most, practitioners live in dire poverty!
Ignoring these inconvenient truths does not make them simply go away, although that appeared to be the de facto policy that they all followed, until very recently. Glossing over this issue, which is, in fact, at the very core of what concerns spirituality and the message of Jesus, was more than a little disheartening, and I think it was what led to the decline of the power of this religion in the West.
Yet, this Pope Francis I appears to be truly different. He seems to not flinch or back down when the faith that he believes in and embodies conflicts with those of the major powers and players in the world. He is speaking here from his heart, from what he believes deep down, and understands as the message that his faith has always taught.
Of course, he is not doing this without opposition. A lot of people, including Tea Party conservatives in the United States, have been quite vocal in their opposition, and claim that he is too liberal.
But I, for one, am starting to see less of a conflict between what the Vatican in general, the and Papacy specifically, is supposed to represent, and what this Pope in particular apparently is.
He is, to me, far and away the most impressive Pope that I can remember, and I am beginning to be more and more interested in following his actions and speeches. No, I am not returning to my Catholic roots, per se. But I am going to take him seriously when he speaks, because he already has shown that he is speaking from a higher authority than his own self-interest.
"Pope Francis calls unfettered capitalism 'tyranny' and urges rich to share wealth Pontiff's first major publication calls on global leaders to guarantee work, education and healthcare" Reuters theguardian.com, Tuesday 26 November 2013: