A Pope for All People
While the Pope has long been the leader of the Catholic Church, and recognized as a world leader for centuries, Pope Francis has touched the hearts of people from every faith, and corner, of the globe. He seems to exude love and compassion that breaks down barriers, even those never breached before.
Actions speak louder than words, and His Holiness has certainly been a man of action. For example, in Vatican City, which is drawing crowds of homeless people, the pontiff ordered showers, sleeping bags, and barbers be supplied to those in need. He has won many hearts to Jesus, and continues to provide hope to those less fortunate, via prayer books he has freely distributed.
Likewise, on the road, His Holiness has broken with tradition, and stepped out of his safe surroundings to embrace the lowliest of believers. He kisses babies, and hugs the disfigured- in other words, he "walks what he talks."
Religious leaders from many faiths have praised Pope Francis, and even atheists and agnostics have given this Pope a nod. Imams, Rabbis, Hindu, non-Catholic Christian Pastors, Orthodox Priests, atheists and celebrities agree they see hope in this pontiff. During his USA visit in October, Pope Francis was honored with a multi-denominational ceremony, which included a special Yom Kippur service at the Lincoln Memorial.
Many people love Pope Francis because of his progressive ideas regarding climate and world politics, while others see a humble servant, obedient to a higher purpose. Hindus have likened the washing of prisoner's feet by the pontiff, to a Hindu tradition of pranam, which is generally reserved for those in high authority or deserving of respect. By humbling himself, the Pontiff sent a message that people everywhere are no less honorable than he is.
A board member for the Hindu American Foundation, Padma Kuppa, extols the Pope for his "dharmic sensibilities." Dharma, she says, is perhaps the most important tenet to Hinduism. The four primary directives of Hinduism are: artha (abundance/wealth); kama (joy/pleasure); moksha (freedom/ deliverance); and dharma (one's own character, or conformity to the universe).
Kuppa explains that dharma is multifaceted, but that it deals a lot with treating others with respect and dignity. "Equality and dharma go hand-in-hand," according to Kuppa, who goes on to say, "[His Holiness] lifts up those who don't have fairness." She praises Pop Francis saying, "[He] embodies that pursuit of dharma," thereby attracting Hindus and others who seek fairness, and justice across international lines.
Islamic Imam, Mohammed Bashar Arafat, has felt an affinity with the Holy See, since he chose his papal name. The original St. Francis of Assisi worked for peace during the height of the crusades. Originally intending to convince the sultan of Egypt to surrender, he came to respect the Muslim community, and returned to Rome espousing peace between the two great faiths. The choice of "Francis" was meaningful on many levels. Arafat explained that he sees these same qualities in the new Pope Francis, and actually expresses gratitude to the papacy for their openness, and willingness to work toward peace. When he spoke out against Syrian military strikes, very early in his papacy, Arafat praised Pope Francis for his pro-peace advocacy. The imam has said, "I see him trying to emulate St. Francis in outreach. …It is our responsibility as a Muslim community to raise our voices and say thank you."
Many Christian pastors have embraced His Holiness' call for forgiveness, kindness, and unity. There is one stumbling block for many; gay marriage. Although they agree with Pope Francis on many things, homosexual marriage has raised some controversy among Evangelical, Baptist, Quaker and other Christian denominations.
A recent Pew Poll revealed that 89% of ex-Catholics have a favorable view of Pope Francis, and are interested in what he has to say. Not all were ready to return to the flock, but they did appreciate his mercy, compassion and kindness toward others. They felt a resurgence of faith based thought.
The consensus is that Pope Francis is winning hearts with his spontaneous and crowd-pleasing antics, as he truly reaches out to the lowly, just as Jesus required all of us to do, and it seems to be working.