He carries his own luggage, prefers a five-year-old Ford Focus to the papal Mercedes-Benz and, rather than buy fancy new shoes, asks a cobbler to repair his old ones.
All this down-to-earth simplicity from Pope Francis who, after all, became a world leader earlier this year, is fascinating to people around the world.
“He is, in some ways, predictably unpredictable,” said the Rev. I. Michael Bellafiore, a University of Scranton theology professor who on Thursday will lead a discussion at a Wilkes-Barre restaurant during a local church’s Wine & Spirit gathering. The session, titled “Let’s Be Frank About Francis” and sponsored by St. Andre Bessette Parish, will take place at 7 p.m. at Uptown II in Courthouse Square Towers. The public is invited.
“He certainly keeps in the limelight of the press fairly easily,” Bellafiore said of Pope Francis.
Much of the press attention has been paid to comments the pope made about not judging gay people and his criticism that the Catholic Church has been “obsessed” with such topics as abortion, gay marriage and contraception.
That doesn’t mean the pope is going to change church teaching on those issues, Bellafiore said, but that he wants “the church as a whole to care for people who are in difficulties, to meet them where they are and reach out to them.”
“What he doesn’t want us to do is become scolds,” Bellafiore said, citing an example the pope mentioned after his election in the spring. “When he was archbishop in Argentina, an unwed mother asked to have her child baptized, and a priest at first refused to do it because she was unwed.”
Pope Francis, who was known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio in his previous life, said the priest’s attitude was wrong.
“We have to guard against the danger of thinking of ourselves as a select club,” Bellafiore said. “People come to us in all kinds of irregular situations, and while we have to be clear about the truth, your first approach isn’t to write the person off.”
There’s also a danger in focusing on the hot-button issues about human sexuality that Pope Francis has mentioned, Bellafiore said. “That might get the front page,” he said, but Francis’ less-glamorous issues about social justice and concern for the poor, the call to lead a more austere life yourself so that you can share with others are topics that deserve more attention than they get.
“Are you willing to compromise, willing to do with a little bit less so society doesn’t fall apart?” Bellafiore asked. “We have all that we need in this country, and we have enough to help the world. Are we willing to do without one pair of shoes?”