Pope Francis Is Very Good At Being Pope

Pope Francis I

Buzzfeed has the story of an incident that occurred at the close of Pope Francis’s regular Wednesday service in St. Peter’s Square that strikes me as being an example of the simple kind of humanity and compassion that seems to be lacking in our world today, which this Pope seems determined to demonstrate to the world:

Pope Francis was departing St. Peter’s Square after Wednesday’s general audience when he saw a severely disfigured man amidst the crowd of worshippers.

Ignoring the deformities covering the man’s face and neck, Pope Francis descended from his vehicle, walked to the sick man, and kissed him on the forehead.

Some of the photos at the links are somewhat disturbing, so be warned about that.

While I was raised Catholic, I can’t say I’m a particularly religious person at this point, but I must say that Francis has impressed me very much, just as a human being, in the months since his Papacy began.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Religion, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. John Peabody says:

    There’s nothin’ like walking the walk!

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    The Catholics should have known that when they elevated a Jesuit to Pope they were going to get a decent human being. I have been an atheist for most of my life but I have always had a great deal of respect for the Jesuits.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Courage, even audacity, is a quality that is characteristic of the Jesuits. And they are generally very, very smart. It will be an interesting papacy.

  4. Scott says:

    It is clear he picked the name Francis quite intentionally. It will be interesting to see whether his example will elicit feelings of deep shame or deep resentment from the rest of hierarchy.

  5. rudderpedals says:

    I don’t ever remember a living person of faith being a worthy role model – until this man. The pope blows me away.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    It’s just possible this guy’s an actual Christian – a creature often spoken of but only rarely seen in action.

  7. Franklin says:

    I see there’s at least one cynic in the comments of that page that thinks this was staged. But I bet that cynic wouldn’t kiss that deformed man!

    Thumb’s up for the current Pope. Although we sometimes make fun of the acronym WWJD, this guy seems to honestly ask himself the question.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    It will be interesting to see how Pope Francis continues. It sounds hokey and hard to say, but he definitely comes across as a “good man.”

    Pope Francis’s methods are the only form of preaching I consider moral: by their fruits ye shall know them. Otherwise, I think missionaries should be shot on sight. Or at least bundled up and ejected from whatever population they’re trying to convert.

  9. Abdul says:

    Honestly, when I used to need a pick me up I’d watch cute cat videos. Sorry to admit that. Now I just google “Pope” and I’m ready for round two. The man is amazing.

  10. Pinky says:

    Popes show this kind of love for the poor and desperate all the time. At least every pope in the past 100 years has. Francis is getting good press out of it. I suspect that once Benedict passes away, the coverage is going to turn against Francis.

  11. Ben says:

    Kissing the deformed makes for good press, but what has impressed me so far about Francis has been his comments about non-believers and people of other religions. He’s the first pope in my lifetime, and probably for many more lifetimes before that, who isn’t hostile to atheists.

  12. al-Ameda says:


    I suspect that once Benedict passes away, the coverage is going to turn against Francis.

    Yes, all the lame stream media attention being paid to Francis’ acknowledgment of and assistance to the poor and disabled – he deserves to be busted on this.

    Why hasn’t Francis come out in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy; after all nothing says “help the poor” better than putting more money in the hands of the wealthy. Even Benedict knows this.

  13. Rob in CT says:

    I’m wary of slobbering over the Pope – any Pope. I am, however, for the first time I can remember, not actively irritated by the Pope. He seems a decent fellow.

  14. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. My comment was a reference to the way the press depicts most religious stories – most stories about anything, really – in terms of conflict. Bad Benedict / Good Francis is a handy meme. When Benedict passes away, the stories are going to revert to the template of evil patriarchal authority versus wholesome progressive laity. Personally, I hope that Francis continues to get good press, but I don’t see what will be in it for the average journalist.

  15. michael reynolds says:


    It’s not likely the press will turn on Francis. It’s conservative Catholics he’s upsetting, not the media.

  16. al-Ameda says:


    When Benedict passes away, the stories are going to revert to the template of evil patriarchal authority versus wholesome progressive laity.

    Help me out here: Why would Francis get bad press when Benedict passes way?

    The average journalist is not going to be upset if Francis’ actions and pronouncements are seen as favorable to the poor and afflicted. On the other hand, conservative American Catholic cardinals, bishops, arch-bishops, and priests – the ones who fought the insurance mandate – they’re the ones most likely to be less than enamored of Pope Francis.

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: Bingo! He lives by the words of Jesus of Nazareth. Ever noticed that the fundamentalists invariably quote from the Old Testament or Revelation, never from the gospels? They’re not Christians at all given how much effort they put into avoidance of his teachings.

  18. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: The average journalist may be more likely to notice that the Church hasn’t changed its position on, say, gay marriage or abortion. The bloom is still on the rose and will likely to stay there as long as the memories of the old, non-photogenic college professor are strong.

  19. Pinky says:

    @Ben Wolf: That’s a clever line, but it’s not accurate.

  20. Jen says:


    I think you are way off base. The coverage of Pope Francis has been positive because his actions–and words–have been so much more open and embracing of others, in stark contrast to the reclusive, hardline Catholicism of the last several Popes. He’s actually spending his time moving his rhetoric away from the divisive issues of abortion and gay rights. It doesn’t mean he’s changed church doctrine, I get that. But it’s not the *focus* of his work.

    Tossing the Bishop of Bling out of his multi-million dollar home and suspending him isn’t something the prior Pope did. Francis did that. More power to him. He’s more humble and frankly has done more for Catholicism than millions of dollars in advertising ever could have.

    If he stays on this path, he might even bring some lapsed Catholics back into the fold.

    Both John Paul and Benedict have to atone for shifting around pedophile priests. Most lay Catholics have not forgotten that.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Popes show this kind of love for the poor and desperate all the time.

    Oh? When did Benedict do this kind of thing?

  22. Pinky says:

    @Jen: Benedict tossed out the founder of Regnum Christi, Father Marcial Maciel, after having doggedly pursued him during the era of John Paul II. He spoke out against consumerism and the Iraq War. He was called the “green Pope” for his statements on environmentalism. And the guy did the most humble thing in the world, retiring from the papacy. But that didn’t fit the narrative of the “Nazi Pope”, so it didn’t get much press. Like I said, though, I’m happy about the pro-Francis articles.

  23. Grewgills says:

    I have only been really cognizant of press attention to popes since John Paul and the press treated him pretty well. He came across as a loving caring man and that is what I remember of the press coverage. Benedict suffered coming after one that was so charismatic and from his more regressive views on social issues, as well as his role in covering up the sexual abuse scandal. Francis doesn’t seem to have that baggage is charismatic, caring, and doesn’t push the more divisive social issues, so I think he will continue to do well with the people and the press. That he followed an unpopular and not so charismatic pope that pushed those divisive issues does help with his popularity in the early days.

  24. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: I generally agree with your comment. I just don’t think it’s fair to say that Benedict covered up the sex abuse scandal. He arguably did more than anyone to flush it out.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    I’m an atheist, but I’ve always thought genuine Christianity would be so powerful it would make people ashamed not to live equally admirable lives.

    I like this guy. I think he’s the real thing. I see that picture of him with that terribly deformed man and I think that for that one man this was a miracle.

  26. KM says:


    I think the reason most people didn’t give Benedict the benefit of the doubt was there was something intrinsically unyielding and rigid in him that gave many an instinctive pause. He seemed like someone who was more concerned with matters of dogma then of faith, the letter of the law versus the spirit. For all the positives he may have done, there was an equally obvious (or worse) negative to counterbalance it. Personally, it was going after the Sisters that pissed me off royal. The women who do more hands down in terms of physical work and spiritual support should never have been chastised like that. It smacked of repression and rubbed many who have known a good Sister wrong even if they weren’t personally Catholic. Benedict was inflexible in the wrong ways. He focused on petty matters and hotbed issues rather then address what might be causing those issues to arise.

    Francis is a Jesuit and we are held to a higher standard and obligation. I went to Jesuit institutions my whole life for education and they instilled a profound sense of duty and faith I’ve rarely seen matched. Not just street-corner noise or shouting to the rooftops but getting down in the dirt and helping. I had high hopes and have yet to be disappointed.