Having just completed his first ever visit to the United States, Pope Francis became only the fourth Pope to visit this country. His time here was split between Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia, and the media coverage of his visit was sensational. The world, it seems, is more captivated by Pope Francis than his predecessor, and it comes at a time when the Catholic Church could use a bit of positive PR.
In his relatively short tenure, Pope Francis has established an inspiring voice that reaches beyond the global population of Catholics. Perhaps this is because of his compassion for humanity – seeking out the sick and suffering to offer healing and comfort. Though, that is not very different from many religious leaders. Perhaps it is because of his humility – a willingness to forgo some of the luxuries that accompany his current role.
I see yet another value – Pope Francis is practicing candor in ways previously undemonstrated by the Catholic Church. By doing so, he offers a re-welcoming for Catholics who have shifted away due to recent scandals and disillusionment. He also delivers a strong message of peace and acceptance to the rest of the world.
His candor is notable – by his willingness to speak to uncomfortable topics. As one example, Pope Francis repeatedly acknowledges the sexual abuse crimes that have been denied and covered up within Church ranks for decades. Although the Catholic Church continues to struggle with how to address recovery for victims and prevent sexual abuse, Pope Francis has taken a more forthright approach by speaking openly about the crimes and historically poor response.
The Pope – who may be a bit conflicted between Church legacy and his own heart – struggles in a manner that each of us can relate to. It is challenging to speak out in ways that counter the traditions of our institutions – whether that’s our place of employment, our place of worship, or our family. Candor is having the courage to say how it is for you – especially when you know that’s not how it is for others.