BaronWR: Did you see that he said you can repent after death, now?
Sam512: Ooh, brilliant! I like that option.
Andrew Aguecheek: SUCK IT, PASCAL!

At the time of writing, the best public individual in the world.

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio; Cardinal and Archbishop of Buenos Aires prior to his accession to the Vicarage of Christ. He was a Jesuit, which he kind of had to stop at least technically for reasons of being the Pope now. He is the two hundred and sixty-sixth ruler of the oldest organization and state currently in existence, the Catholic Church. To the best of my knowledge, he is the only official autocrat left in Europe. He has only one working lung.

From the moment of his accession, crazy shit began to happen. I and several of my friends have watched in delighted astonishment as he moves from clarity to clarity, thus far unpoisoned by the tea of John Paul. And I do mean the very moment: accepting, he took the name Francis — the first time in precisely one thousand one hundred years that any Pope has chosen a wholly new name — after Saint Francis of Assisi, to remind him always that the Church is for the poor. When the Master of Ceremonies went to throw the papal cloak over his shoulders, he refused it; some claim that he said »You wear it! We are in Lent, Carnival is over«.

He refused to be installed in the papal apartments. He took up residence in a guesthouse instead. He refused the Popemobile. (In favor of a Ford Focus.) Reports suggest that he has removed the Papal cathedra from St. Peter's; in any case, he has had a simple wooden bench moved in to substitute. Allegedly, he mostly sits on the steps leading up to the altar.

As he assumed the (revised) papal seat just before Easter, he was catapulted immediately into conducting some of the most important celebrations of the liturgical year, and here immediately he shocked many Catholics. One of the ceremonies traditional to Easter is for the Pope to wash the feet of twelve disciples on Maundy Thursday, in imitation of Christ. Previously, Popes would choose twelve priests, and wash their feet in St. John Lateran, the seat of the bishopric of Rome. Pope Francis went to Casal del Marmo youth prison, and there washed the feet of twelve juvenile offenders, two of whom were women — a first, and an astonishing breach of Vatican protocol, which (bizarrely) offended conservative Catholics immensely.

Some time in May he explained that any good person could naturally inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, regardless of whether they were Catholic or even Christian.

In late June, he took the first steps toward a review of the Vatican Bank. (Almost immediately, an official of the bank was arrested for attempting to embezzle €20 million.)

In July, he declared that marginalization of homosexuals was unacceptable, and then later, clarified that focusing on »gays and abortion« is morally hazardous, since »getting tied up in small-minded rules« risks losing the message of mercy which is the true purpose of the Church.

In mid-September, he gave an interview to a Jesuit magazine where he said he found it »amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome«, since used that way »[t]he dicasteries of the Roman Curia [...] run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship«. (This interview is also the ultimate source of the quotes just preceding.)

Just afterward, he gave another interview (note: this translation appears to be incomplete, starting in medias res) to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in which he asked the paper's awestruck, atheist editor »Do you think we are very far apart?« and told him that »the court is the leprosy of the Papacy«, among other things. The interview, linked here in English translation, is almost impossible to summarize for salient points, and well worth reading. Another quote, however:

"You, however, from what I understand, are a non-believer but not anti-clerical. They are two very different things." [This is the Pope.]
True, I am not anticlerical, but I become so when I meet a clericalist.
He smiles and says, "It also happens to me that when I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity."

That was early this month, or perhaps in late September. Just two days ago he spoke out to plead for a reconciliation with the Protestants and Orthodox, declaring that the Catholic Church itself, not least, has much to apologize for. Which is another pretty astonishing reversal of policy.

Taken all together, these statements indicate a staggering conclusion: the new Pope actually believes in Jesus Christ, and may even have read the Bible! Or, less jocularly, we might put it this way: through all his actions, and all his statements, the image that emerges is of a thoughtful, genuinely good person, a person who cares more for doing good than for maintaining the prestige of himself or his organization, who tries to live up to the examples of those who came before, and isn't half bad at it. I only wish I knew a politician of whom I could say the same.

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