I’ll be honest: when the Catholic church elected their newest pope in March, I wasn’t really paying attention. I’m not Catholic, and I’ve never been too concerned with the succession of popes. All I ever knew was that they typically have roman numerals in their name, wear a tall hat, ride around in that cool popemobile, and typically condemn many of the causes I’ve always believed in: gay rights, abortion rights, etc.
Then a few days ago, a news story came out about this new Whippersnapper Pope. In front of a bunch of reporters, Pope Francis gave an off-the-cuff, unscripted interview in which he said, in reference to gay people, “Who am I to judge?”
More specifically, he was asked about his stance on homosexuality and he said: “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” And in doing so, Pope Francis basically declared that he does not feel the Catholic church should no longer condemn gay people. “They should not be marginalized.”
The Pope said that. The. Pope.
Again, I’m not Catholic. My knowledge about Catholicism is based on observing the many people in my life who are Catholic, ranging from those who separated themselves from the church after seeing where their own ideologies differed, to those who still practice with devotion. This means my understanding of the Catholic church is limited.
So after reading this major declaration from Johnny New Pope, I decided to poke around a little and get myself educated. Turns out the Internet is awesome when it comes to presenting accurate information about stuff! Here are Eight Fun Facts about Pope Francis!
1. The Pope loves gay people!
In addition to his interview pro-gay sound bytes this week, and statements reaching out to gay priests, Pope Francis visited an Argentinian hospice in 2001 (when he was merely Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio), where he kissed and washed the feet of AIDS patients — at a time when most people still believed that having AIDS was an affliction limited to gay people. Mayhap the future Pope was making a broader statement about care and inclusiveness?
2. The Pope doesn’t totally love gay people.
On the one hand, the pope has publicly declared that it’s not right to judge or ostracize gay people for being gay (including gay priests), he still officially opposes gay marriage and gay adoption. In fact, he was quoted saying that same-sex marriage is “an attack on God’s plan,” shortly after receiving his new Pope hat. Not sure you can both judge and not judge at the same time, Mr. Pope.
3. The Pope chose his name wisely.
Did you know that popes get to choose their own name? (Was I the only person that didn’t know that?) Pope Francis took his name to honor St. Francis of Assisi, an admirer of nature and a servant to the poor. The original St. Francis actually started off wealthy, and then walked away from a very comfortable life to devote himself to helping the poor in Rome, and choosing to live in poverty himself. This pope is actually the first one to choose St. Francis as his namesake (hence the lack of roman numerals in his new name). No other Pope ever went with Francis. (What’s up with that, other popes?)
That’s so cool that popes get to name themselves, by the way. If I ever become Pope, I’m calling myself Pope Elvis Joss Whedon Rocket Man.
4. The Pope is totally not a fan of hot gossip.
While acknowledging that Christians love to chat behind others’ backs like any other community, he’s doesn’t like trash talk. “It is as if we want to put each other down,” he said in an interview on Vatican Radio. “Instead of growing, one makes the other feel small while I feel great. That will not do.” He said that gossip is like honey: It tastes sweet at first, but “large doses deliver stomach aches.” That’s cool.
5. The Pope is awesome on Twitter.
First, I was shocked to learned that this pope, or any Pope for that matter, would even go near Twitter in the first place. But this guy: he’s all about the zingers:
We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants. God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) July 8, 2013
We are all sinners. But may the Lord not let us be hypocrites. Hypocrites don’t know the meaning of forgiveness, joy and the love of God.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 23, 2013
6. Atheists are into this Pope.
In a recently homily, Pope Francis connected with atheists when he said:
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”
As a result, atheists on ranging social media vehicles started giving him props. That’s got to be a first, right? Intriguing.
7. The Pope digs the people.
The man is a hand-shaker and a baby-kisser. He seems to like walking with the public masses, rather than wave at them from far away, behind bullet-proof glass. In fact, it turns out Pope Francis actually traded in the bulletproof-glass popemobile, opting for a nice open-air white Mercedes Jeep, which he can easily hop out of to exchange high-fives with fans.
8. The Pope is a huge fan of One Direction.
His favorite song is “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful,” which he’s described as “a great pop tune with a killer hook.”
There you have it! Eight fun facts about the new pope! I still can’t say I’m on board the Pope train, because, well… no. But I’m definitely optimistic about what this guy could potentially do for the world. And I’m curious about what he’ll say and do next.