Since his election, Pope Francis has experienced an extraordinary popularity. The Spiritan in Rome are eyewitnesses of the growing popularity of the former cardinal of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Every time he appears in the city of Rome, he attracts a crowd of visitors and admirers who push forward to get a glimpse of Pope Francis. St. Peter’s Square has become a focal point for thousands of people to pray with the Holy Father and listen to his Wednesday homilies and exhortations. “Viva il Papa” is constantly heard as he moves among the people. He is completely at ease and gives a hug to the children who are presented to him as he passes by. He is given all sorts of gifts as he circulates – a football shirt, a tennis racket. On one occasion, he even changed his skull cap for a hat offered to him by a little girl! This is all done in a completely relaxed and simple way, with a big smile and a cheery wave. He frequently raises his right thumb as if to say that all is good!
Popular with the traders
The atmosphere in Rome and, above all, around the Vatican, is full of excitement. People selling religious mementoes are rubbing their hands with glee – like the sellers in the temple or those on whom manna fell from heaven in the desert! They are selling everything: books, postcards, statues of the Pope, T-shirts, key-rings, rosaries, papal flags – everything is selling like hot cakes! They are displayed in cars, houses, offices, or carried back home as presents for friends and relations. Pope Francis is a god-send for them! At the Angelus each Sunday, thousands of people push their way into the square to get a glimpse of him. The security men really have their work cut out to keep this enthusiasm under some sort of control.
Popular with the media
On the internet, many pages talk regularly about the Pope. On TV and in the newspapers, he dominates the headlines and many column inches. According to Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, in charge of social communications in the Vatican, “since December 2012, the number of approving answers to the papal ‘tweets’ rose from 60 to 80%, an effect of the popularity of Pope Francis”. There are 70,000 people each day who visit the official internet news site which appears in 70 languages. This is tied in with Facebook which has over one million visitors every week. When the Vatican channel opened on YouTube, there were 700,000 visitors within the first week!
Some Christians are not in favour of this papal presence on the social networks, fearing that the Pope might be exposed to insults. But in contrast, others feel that the virtual world is the environment in which men and women live today; they form a network, as does the Church. The network can indirectly help young people to understand the Church. It is also a place of first evangelisation, where Jesus can be made present digitally.
Born on December 17th, 1936, he speaks French, Italian, English, German and a little Portuguese and he has to watch over himself because at the age of 21, he underwent the partial removal of one lung.
Baba Gaston (Sources : Mediascom).