By Violet Jiang
Pope Francis is changing the way non-Catholic people like me look at the Church.
Despite the fact that I go to temples and pay tribute from time to time in vacation mode, I was born into a family without religious belief and I consider myself a non-believer. Even when I had time to linger at St. Peter’s Square, among the very few things I was thrilled to see were the flying doves and the costumes worn by Swiss guards. The Pope didn’t attract me.
The only knowledge I had about popes came from movies, where they were portrayed identically as medieval dictators, patronizing and ruthless.
However, my prejudice toward Catholicism is going through a period of change. In the information age, such a perceptional U-turn is not credited to the Bible, to the church or to any kind of persuasive lobby, but to waves of effective online buzz surrounding a public figure – Pope Francis. He’s the man behind 318 million search results and 101,000 news findings in Google. Pope Francis attracts attention with both behavior and commentary breakthroughs that news outlets seem never tired of bringing up and reiterating.
Today, instant messages may count more than doctrines. Pope Francis is popularizing the Roman Catholic Church by offering humility and humanity to the world, showing both believers and non-believers that he is molding a charming Church of clemency and democracy. This Church, as he shapes it, is tolerant enough to forgive controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion.
We recently saw a warm moment when Pope Francis gently rested his hand on the small head of a boy who definitely upstaged him, intruding on the platform during a papal speech and turning the podium into a playground.
The moment won my heart because it showed Francis as not so much a servant nor a messenger of God, but as a human being. He reminded me of my grandpa. Grandpa would forgive the wild days in childhood and strip off his dignity to grandsons and granddaughters. That’s Pope Francis toward Catholic family gatherings.
It may not be God’s mercy that wins people’s preference, but those interpersonal affections repeating in our humble normal life.
People’s appreciation for the Pope’s manner carries far more influence than most politicians because religious believers spread beyond national borders and he is recognized by the entire Roman Catholic Church. So positive images of Pope Francis on the Web are certain to shore up the clout of a spiritual icon. Even if Pope Francis doesn’t win non-believers’ affiliation, such a goodwill strategy is enough to win friends.
And next time I visit Vatican, I will definitely buy a postcard of Pope Francis.
(The photo of Pope Francis is from Papist’s Flickr account and is in the public domain)