It was interesting to read the perspective on Pope Francis offered by our sister publication Irish Central writer Frances Mulraney, a millennial in her early twenties.
She wrote, “Being Irish, I’ve come to treat the Catholic Church with a certain bias. I grew up listening to scandal after scandal: the mother and baby homes, forced and illegal adoptions, abuse, neglect, and general behavior from the Catholic Church in Ireland that is far from Christian.”
Until Pope Francis, that was the typical experience of the average young person in Ireland, where daily headlines going back well over a decade were about abuse scandals, cover-ups and hush payments.
It is an extraordinary tribute to the personality and goodness of Pope Francis that in a few short years he has turned that vision around to where he has become the embodiment of a very different church.
Sure, as Maureen Dowd in The New York Times has written, it is still a cold house for women in terms of equality and for gays, but on matters of the heart Francis has tapped the vein of goodness and idealism that exists in the young and perhaps the not so young.
Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News called Francis the “leader of the world,” and indeed there is no one who can speak with the same moral authority as the plain spoken Hispanic from Argentina.
He goes straight to the heart of the best kind of Catholic doctrine, the outreach to the poor, the indigent, the stranger, the emigrant. Not for him the matter of how many angels fit on the head of a pin or the grand theological arguments about the meaning of Bible passages.
This is the Sermon on the Mount pope, reciting, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit.”
Looking at the millions of people who turned up on his three city U.S. tour, it is impossible to see any other world leader who could have a smidgen of his moral authority. The only person I could think of was the late Nelson Mandela with his impassioned plea to forgive enemies despite their dreadful persecution of him.
The fact that Francis toured America with such evident care and compassion was like a healing balm to a world torn apart at present by violence and dissension.
Stalin once asked how many legions has the pope. This one has many it appears.
The outreach to Cuba from the U.S. was inspired by Francis in secret negotiations. And after savage months of immigrant bashing from the likes of a “Know Nothing” like Donald Trump, we had a powerful pushback not from the Democratic Party enmeshed in Hillary's emails, but from the pontiff talking beautifully about all that immigrants bring to a new life once they arrive.
As the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina he understands the feeling of being an outsider, a stranger in a strange land, and he called above all for compassion and concern for those here undocumented.
The sight of the little Hispanic girl running to meet the pope with a note about her undocumented father was touching all the more because it was obviously unrehearsed. For one moment we saw the raw pain and tragedy that the ignorance of the Trump harangues have brought on such innocent people.
America is a big country with a huge heart, but sometimes we lose sight of all that thanks to the petty quarrels that dominate our politics.
It takes a Francis to show us the reflection of the great parts of America of the idealism waiting to happen in young lives if given a chance. There will hardly be a more significant visitor to these shores for years to come.
The good news is that he may well be in Ireland in 2018 at the next family summit. There again is another country in deep need of spiritual healing.