If actions speak louder than words, and a picture is worth a thousand of them, then Pope Francis is reaching the world in some of the most effective ways possible.
Actions speak louder than words, and a picture is worth a thousand of them: two principles that have so far defined Pope Francis’ most effective messages to the world. Though he has already released an encyclical and is giving public speeches just about every day, it’s been his simple, personal gestures that keep making the biggest impact.
Here are six of the most impactful moments so far from Pope Francis’ history-making eight month papacy (in no particular order):
1) Hosted, greeted, and embraced hundreds of persons with disabilities at the Vatican
Just a few days ago, Pope Francis hosted about six-hundred persons with disabilities in a special ceremony at the Vatican. According to the AP story, he “lamented that society tends to ‘hide physical fragility’ and reject the disabled. He encouraged those with physical disabilities to banish any feelings of shame, and become ‘protagonists’ in society as well as the Catholic church.” He then greeted each participant one-by-one, embracing them and making conversation as he went.
2) Publicly embraced and kissed a severely disfigured man
Last Wednesday, Pope Francis was departing St. Peter’s Square in his popemobile after a general audience when a man with a severely disfigured face caught his eye. He stopped his vehicle, got down, and greeted him. Francis embraced and kissed the man on his forehead and then laid his hands on him while he prayed. You've probably already seen it, because photos from the encounter went viral.
3) Little boy wandered up to papal stage, Pope Francis let him sit in his chair
At the end of October, the Vatican hosted a special pilgrimage for families for the Year of Faith. During one of the events, a small boy somehow got through security and wandered on to the stage to Pope Francis. Francis just smiled and let the boy stay. And in an image that will go down in history, when it came time for Pope Francis to stand up and give an address, the boy sat in Francis’ chair.
4) Brought young man with down syndrome up into his popemobile
This last summer, Pope Francis greeted a young man with down syndrome in St. Peter’s Square and brought him up into the popemobile. While tens of thousands looked on, Francis let the young man spin around in his chair. A CBS story reports: “The boy's father, Celestino di Tullio, [said] he choked up when Francis approached his son: ‘The pope saw him, embraced him. Then Alberto pointed to the car, and so he brought him up!’”
5) Called, promised unwed mother he would baptize her child
Pope Francis has become “the Calling Pope”. He receives thousands of letters each day, many of whom he not only looks at personally, but responds to personally. Sometimes he sends a letter back, but a number of times he’s simply picked up the phone and called the person.
In one such example, he called a woman who was pregnant with the child of a man married to someone else. She said she didn’t know the man was married to someone else, but that upon telling him about the pregnancy, he refused to support her and requested she abort the child. She chose to keep the child, but now felt scared and alone. Pope Francis told her he’d personally baptize her child and be a “spiritual father” to him or her.
6) Spent Holy Thursday in prison and washed the feet of prisoners
Normally Holy Thursday services are held in the beautiful St. Peter’s Basilica. But last spring, Pope Francis broke with custom and instead celebrated Holy Thursday mass in a local prison. And instead of washing the feet of priests, he washed the feet of prisoners, including women and non-Christians.
What did I miss? What have been your favorite moments of Francis’ papacy so far