Skip to comments.Pope Francis honeymoon continues: Draws big crowds and new fans
Posted on 04/28/2013 5:41:21 AM PDT by NYer
ROME – More than one month since his election, Pope Francis is winning new fans and drawing big crowds to the Vatican.
St. Peter's Square has been filled to capacity during the pope’s public events – like the Wednesday general audience and Sunday blessing.
Vendors and shopkeepers have had swift sales of rosaries, candles, pens and even lighters carrying Francis' smiling face since his election. The demand for pope-related goods is even fueling the black market – earlier this week police in Milan seized a million items made in China carrying the image of the Pope illegally smuggled into the country.
Many Catholics, at least in Italy, have been won over by Francis’ humility.
Pope Francis received a rosary from a young girl as he arrives for his weekly general audience at St Peter's square on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at the Vatican.
“He behaves like one of us, he is one of the people,” said 42-year-old Roberto Delantero, a devout Catholic and admirer of the Franciscan order. “He said he is infinitely small, just like Saint Francis called himself. It’s a nice break for the Catholic Church, which in recent years rose above the people.”
“He is a man of the people, he doesn’t sit on a pedestal,” said Maya de Roo, a 32-year-old Dutch florist based in Rome who met Pope Francis after helping with the flowers arrangements in St. Peter’s Square for Easter Mass.
Of course, de Roo brought up a comparison to his predecessor, the now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“After the mass, he came to thank us florists and he was looking at all of us in the eyes. It was clear he was happy to be with us. He was emanating a positive energy that I never felt with Benedict.”
Osservatore Romano / Reuters
Pope Francis receives Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti's soccer jersey during their private audience at the Vatican on Thursday, April 25.
And while Francis hails from Buenos Aires, which is almost 7,000 miles away from Rome, Italians welcomed him as one of their own overnight. (Francis joked after his election, “the cardinals found me at the end of the world.”)
His Italian roots – his parents come from the northern Italian Piedmont region – provided an instantaneous familiarity that was missing with Benedict, who was perceived as “too German” for many in Italy.
But that hasn’t stopped Francis, who is a big soccer fan, from connecting with some of fellow Argentine transplants. He had an “emotional” hour-long audience with Inter Milan’s captain Javier Zanetti, also originally from Buenos Aires, and received an autographed jersey from Barcelona star Lionel Messi, an Argentine considered the world's best player.
The new pope is also winning fans stateside, as many as 84 percent of U.S. Catholics view him “favorably” according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted at the end of March. That’s compared to just 67 percent of American Catholics who viewed his predecessor Pope Benedict favorably about three months into his papacy.
More than ethnicity and bloodline, his humility has impressed many. Through many gestures since his election, the new pope has showed an effort to live up to the name he took in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, a saint renowned for renouncing the life of wealth he was born into for one of poverty.
The list is long: he boarded the shuttle bus back to the basilica from the Sistine Chapel among other cardinals on the night he was elected, refusing to take the Vatican “limo” fit for a pope. He insisted on paying the small hotel he stayed in before entering the conclave after he was elected pope.
**St. Peter’s Square has been filled to capacity during the popes public events like the Wednesday general audience and Sunday blessing.**
Even non-Catholics or former Catholics are going to see him!
Very interesting, considering there is NO DIFFERENCE in beliefs between the two Popes. Benedict XVI had the media against him from the get-go, because he was a very familiar figure, when he was elected. They had never liked him, because he was staunch in his defense of the teachings of Jesus and His Church.
Francis was brand new, and his humility belies his strength and his fidelity to those same teachings. They think because he's so much more 'approachable', that he'll be less stringent on the teachings of the Church.
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