The First Humble Pope

Pope Francis I

Something that has been really buzzing in current news is the election of Pope Francis I. Many people (especially those from Argentina) will probably remember him as the first pope in a millennium that has come outside from Europe. Others might remember Francis as the man who came out of nowhere to suddenly be elected pope. But for me, even though I am not a Catholic, I will remember this man as the first humble pope I ever saw.

Before becoming pope, he was known as Cardinal Bergoglio. Before becoming pope, he was also a very humble man. He always transported himself by bus. Instead of living in a luxurious mansion designated for the cardinal, the cardinal decided to reside himself in a shanty house. He always kept a low profile. In fact, one former friend of Bergoglio once recounted that he thought he was “just a doorman.” Only later in the day did he realize he was the head cardinal.

So obviously we all now know that Francis was once a very humble cardinal. However, one might expect him upon becoming pope to suddenly assume the privileges of pope and live a luxurious life. At least that’s what I thought. But it turns out that even after being elected pope, Francis still demanded to live a low life. One example can be seen in his shoes. For instance, there were a group of Catholics who saw Francis’s worn shoes and were embarrassed by it. They all decided to pitch in to buy the new pope new better shoes. However, Francis refused to wear them and still wore his old, torn shoes.

This is obviously a sign of his humbleness. But another thing I want to add: why was that group of Catholics embarrassed? Should they not be proud that the pope decided to wear low-class shoes?

Many previous popes have rode in the papal limousine, a fancy high-security van. What did Francis drive in? A common van. That’s all. In many other ways did Pope Francis also refuse the luxurious regular lifestyle of a pope. Perhaps the only thing that he did accept was the five-star motel room he was living in.

Again, many Catholics were a little bit upset about this. I don’t know why; I mean, isn’t this a good thing? I guess they aren’t used to seeing such a humble pope. They think that the pope should be wearing fancy and wonderful, like many other previous popes did. They think that this grandeur should reflect the grandeur of Catholicism.

Another Example of Jesus’s Humility

To those who do think that way, I disagree. What makes the church grand is not the physical, outside beauty, but rather the inner, spiritual beauty. Beauty such as Francis’s humbleness. And if you think about it, let’s look at Jesus. When he was born, did he travel in a royal sedan chair, carried by servants? Did  Jesus have a crown made of jewels upon his head? Did Jesus have a necklace of the cross around his neck? No, of course not! In fact, the opposite happened to him. Jesus was born son to a humble carpenter and a humble mother. He was not handsome (contrary to many films who depict him as such). He was laughed at by many people, for they thought he was crazy to call himself the son of God. Very few people respected him, and in the end, these very same people crucified him. Sucky life, you have to say, and this life is far off from a pope’s life. Yet, in the end, Jesus sat on the right hand of God. Why? Not because of his outward appearance, but rather of his inner beauty- his devotion and his willingness to spend time and sacrifice for Father Jehovah.

So the fact that Francis is acting humble is thrilling to me. For once we have a pope who will at least act what a pope should act- humble like Jesus and refusing all (or at least most) luxuries. Perhaps one day there will be another pope who will take it even further- by being poor. Then I would say this world is saved. But for now, I hope Francis’s humbleness will serve as a role model to the rest of the Catholic Church. No more splendor guys, at least in the physical sense, but rather spiritual splendor.


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