Cervantes: The popularity of the pope


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Throughout my entire life as a Catholic, I have seen three men who have carried the title of pope. The first was Pope John Paul II, whose funeral I watched on television in sorrowful awe. The second was Pope Benedict XVI, whose resignation shocked me to the core. Now there is Pope Francis. Despite his short time in the role, he has surprised me the most.

After the papacy of Pope Benedict, a reign that had condemned both homosexuality and working women, I was expecting (and hoping) that his replacement to be a mildly more progressive man of the cloth. I wanted someone who would be more in tune with the common people and who would seem approachable to any passing bystander on the street.

Pope Francis is a liberal minded holy man, the type of pope a person could previously only dream about. Here is a man who is trying to open the doors of the Catholic Church to the LGBT community and divorcees. He has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for any clergy member who covers up any crime/indiscretion and is now trying to “move out of the 17 century.”

The changes brought on by Pope Francis have been positively received. A recent poll conducted by CNN revealed that approximately 88 percent of American Catholics approve of Pope Francis and his policies. In reaction to this poll, I dug as deep as the Internet allows me to in order to find criticisms. Those that I found came from some of the most extremist of individuals, who have called him and his policies as nothing more than PR for the papacy. Coincidently, these posts and forums came into fruition not long after the pope stated that extremists were perverting religion.

Just recently, I found myself fortunate enough to talk to my good friend, Sr. Cristina Caballero, a principal for a Catholic School in Bakersfield, California. She had quite a lot to say about our latest pope.

“Pope Francis is a humble man. He is truly ahead of his time. Pope Benedict XVI was also a great man. He acknowledged the need for change, but he knew he couldn’t lead it. He had the courage to step down,” she said. “Pope Francis is opening our parish doors to all of those we had alienated in the past and reaching out to those in need. With this spiritual guidance and genuinely loving nature, I see a future in which acceptance and social unity is ensured. I know that things will only be getting better.”

The consensus is in. Most people sense that Pope Francis is a man who is not distracted by the title and dogma of the papacy. Instead, they see a man who is doing his best to spread the word of his God with a gentle hand and pure intentions.

He is liked. He is determined. But can he truly create the social change that he believes is needed? With enough time and enough care, I believe he can. And it will be for the better.

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