He is quite simply the most popular major leader in the world today. Fittingly named Francis, he is caring, compassionate and has a real sense of forgiveness about human failings.
He has done more to rehabilitate the church in his brief tenure than Benedict managed during the full length of his papacy.
Every politician in America would kill for some of that charisma and his impact, given that he says he will visit Congress, could be considerable just as the 2016 race heats up.
Whoever can claim his mantle of compassionate yet firm leadership could get a huge bounce in the race.
On the Democratic side Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, with his Jesuit education and deep religious faith, has been trying to craft that message of a Pope Francis-type caring aligned with progressive but not partisan politics.
As a social justice Irish Catholic O’Malley could use his faith in a different way to the bible thumpers. The Pope Francis visit could come at just the right time for him.
On the other side Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholicism and a devoted one, may also benefit. He too has stressed social justice issues and has delivered a brand of compassionate conservatism markedly different from his likely GOP opponents.
On the church front the failure of Cardinal Sean O’Malley to entice Francis to Boston is puzzling. O’Malley is said to be the closest to the Pontiff in the American hierarchy and to have eclipsed Cardinal Dolan in New York.
Nonetheless it is to the Big Apple that the Pope will be coming.
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