According to latest surveys, the pews are filling up in Catholic churches worldwide once again.
The new pope is widely seen as the reason why.
Perhaps Pope Francis fulfills a deeper need than maybe he even realizes in the world today.
The struggle for meaning in life is deep in the human psyche.
The need for heroes, for people and institutions to admire and look up has never been greater than now.
In a society where a relentless focus on trivia, materialism and self-importance has left a spiritual void, Francis has suddenly become such a beacon.
Despite all the material success people have never felt so isolated or starved of spiritual sustenance. The search for meaning becomes ever more important when so much meaningless behavior abounds.
What we don’t need are heroes with feet of clay, who seem only preoccupied with their own aggrandizement.
The failure of the Catholic Church in recent decades has been profound.
Instead of being a wise fatherly institution it became a watchword for incompetence and cover-up and one disastrous policy after another.
Most Catholics love the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus portrayed the message of Christianity so beautifully as one of where the meek, the humble, will be exalted and where good deeds will be rewarded.
That is how so many would like to see themselves, as servants of their better natures.
Francis has suddenly appeared out of nowhere to replenish and refresh that message.
He has done it in a stunningly simple way.
Whether it is embracing the poor man with hideous facial deformities or dining with homeless men on his birthday or admitting he is unsure about spouting absolute certainties, Francis has exalted the humble, brought himself down to their level and created a new sense of priority among Catholics.
In American business school parlance, the leadership of the church is suddenly flat, at the same level as everyone in it. No longer are there the exalted few towering above the faithful and lecturing them. Instead there is a conversation.
It was no surprise to read about the packed churches in Ireland and elsewhere over Christmas, as the faithful poured back into churches, content that a caring institution is once more highlighting its own accessibility rather than its previous rigidity.
We are all sinners as Francis states clearly, the message, amazingly, all want to hear. Doctrinal rigidity and fancy semantics around cover-ups never had any place in an institution set up to care and give meaning to life.
Francis has made the church accessible to millions again.
That is his true genius.
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