The popular head of the Catholic Church appears on the cover of the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine with the headline “Pope Francis: The Times They Are A-Changin'.” While his debut into the arena of pop culture is seen as a positive by the Vatican’s spokesperson he has also slammed the article’s negative portrayal of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
The Jesuit spokesman for the Vatican, Father Federico Lombardi, stated that while the cover story shows the diverse interest in the Pope the article, by Mark Binelli, disqualifies itself as serious journalism due to its slant on the former Pope.
Fr Lombardi said “Unfortunately, the article disqualifies itself, falling into the usual mistake of a superficial journalism, which in order to highlight the positive aspects of Pope Francis, thinks it should describe in a negative way the pontificate of Pope Benedict, and does so with a surprising crudeness.”
In the, almost 8,000-word, article Binelli called Benedict’s papacy “disastrous” and attacks his appearance and character.
The spokesman added “This is not the way to do a good service even to Pope Francis, who knows very well what the Church owes to his predecessor.”
The world famous pop culture magazine, founded in 1967, is published every two weeks. The magazine came under severe criticism last July after using one of the Boston Marathon bombers' faces, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, on the cover.
It is no surprise that Pope Francis claimed his place among the other pop culture elite who have graced the front cover of the Rolling Stone, from Paul McCartney to Miley Cyrus. In December 2013 the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church was voted TIME magazine’s Person of the Year and made its cover.
The Rolling Stone article on Pope Francis describes the transformative effect the Pontiff has had on the Vatican’s image since he was elected to the position less than a year ago.
It states, “Benedict, a dour academic, kept this portion of the general audience to a minimum. But Francis, like Bill Clinton, thrives on personal contact, and he spends the better part of an hour greeting believers. Next to the dais, a rowdy hometown team of Italians, a couple of whom spoke loudly on their cellphones throughout the pope’s sermon, have their cameras out like paparazzi. ‘Papa Francesco! Papa Francesco!’ they shout, shrilly and incessantly… The most shameless hold up children.”
Binelli continues “It’s a funny thing, papal celebrity. As the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio had never been an especially gifted public speaker. But now that he’s Pope Francis, his recognizable humanity comes off as positively revolutionary.”
While the Pope Francis effect is being seen around the world it’s evident in the streets of Rome. On Wednesday (Jan 29) the Vatican tweeted a photo (below) of graffiti found on a wall in a cobble-stoned street, near St Peter’s Basilica, in the Vacation City.
It depicts Pope Francis as a superhero, his cassock flying behind him in the wind. In his left hand he clutches a briefcase emblazoned with the message “valores” (meaning values in Spanish).
The tweet read "We share with you a graffiti (sic) found in a Roman street near the Vatican."