My good friend, writer Angie Duarte puts it best—Pope Francis is “THE Rock Star of Roman Catholicism.” Rolling Stone magazine would agree—he was on their cover last year. He addresses large crowds—in the tens of thousands at the Vatican masses and over here, there’s an estimated five to six million waiting to hear him say mass.
He has supposedly worked as a bouncer in a Buenos Aires bar and has been a literature teacher (just like Sting). But unlike most rock stars or his predecessors, he is known to ditch the finer trappings of papal life for more modest ones. We immediately got that he had a sense humor when one of first things he said after being elected Pope was, “May God forgive you for what you’ve done.”
He loves reaching out and mixing it up not with the high and mighty but with the sick, marginalized and lowly. He drank from a cup of maté offered to him by a stranger in Brazil, he’s posed for selfies, there are rumors of him slipping out of the Vatican dressed as an ordinary priest to give out alms or to visit slums, he has spoken out on climate change and the great divide between the wealthy and the poor, he has washed the feet of the infirm and imprisoned (a gesture worth a thousand words, there are videos on YouTube.)
As Barack Obama put it, “. . . it has been his deeds, his bearing, his gestures at once simple and profound . . . that have inspired us all.”
Pope Francis has said, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
Right after the holidays, Metro Manila, Tacloban and the entire country has been so focused on the papal visit. Holidays have been declared, main roads will be closed over different times of the days of his visit, airport operations will be disrupted, Pope Francis dolls and plushies are ready to be sold, we have an official theme song for the visit, a liquor ban will be imposed in Manila, over P5 million has been spent to construct a stage in Tacoloban and P44 million was spent to rehabilitate the airport (did we have to wait for the Pope to get it done, though?).
On a tinier scale, my column on Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” will have to wait until next week because we are all about The Pope today.
The Pope is here and Filipinos will be all ears. What messages will he share with us? There is so much about our country that our people and leaders seriously need to reflect on—issues involving social justice and accountability to others to name a few.
And then comes the even bigger question, are we going truly listen?