I love the new pope.
Before I really get into this, let me start by saying that I’m not Catholic. I’ve never practiced Catholicism and I have no interest in doing so. I’m a perfectly content Methodist. But the Catholic Church intrigues me.
I hold some traditions that I’m told are “Catholic,” such as giving up something for Lent, or holding the pope in high regard. Maybe this is a carry-over from my parents’ upbringing. Or maybe it’s just me being me. I don’t know.
I used to joke with my now-ex-wife that she had to do whatever I told her to do because “the pope said so.” She reminded me at least once a week that we weren’t Catholic. Worth noting, she never did what I told her to do. And in case you’re wondering, that has nothing whatsoever to do with her standing as my ex-wife.
Long story short (too late), there is a hint of Catholicism in me. Which is why I’m so happy to report that I love the new pope.
President Obama met with Pope Francis on Thursday, giving the head of the church a custom-made seed chest with fruit and vegetable seeds, in hopes that they’ll bloom into something substantial, much like he hopes their relationship does.
Wednesday, the pope removed a German bishop from his diocese after reports of the bishop’s $43 million residence upset the faithful. Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst — the “bling bishop” — from Limburg in October.
What the pope was conveying is that the church will not tolerate excess. Which is closely in line with many of his other teachings and doings.
In December, it was revealed that the pope occasionally slips away from the Vatican in order to minister to and help the homeless.
He also shared his 77th birthday with three homeless men. The men live on the street in the Rome neighborhood just outside the Vatican’s walls and were invited by the Holy See official in charge of alms-giving to attend the Mass, which Francis celebrates daily at the hotel where he lives on Vatican City grounds.
To me this is all new. The pope is loving. And charitable. Nice, even. Heck, you could almost say that he is a good Christian.
Now, this isn’t to disrespect the popes prior to Francis. But they certainly never gave me any warm fuzzies. In my life there has never been a pope who I would want to have a beer with. Nor, I’m pretty sure, has there has been a pope who would want to have a beer with me. But that’s all changed now with Francis.
I can only hope that the church’s newfound sense of compassion rubs off on humanity as a whole. Because I kind of feel like we’re all a little Catholic — even if we’re not.
Scott Leffler is a Protestant who eats fish on Fridays during Lent. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.