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10 Extraordinary Gestures

Pope Francis

By the Coolest Pope in History!

Is it possible to be the world’s most powerful religious leader, AND its most humble? By now it’s clear the Roman Catholic Church has elected just about the coolest pope in its entire history. It’s not so much about what Pope Francis says as about what he DOES. Here are 10 extraordinary gestures by Francis during his first 10 months as pope.


1.   Bowing and asking the crowd’s blessing on election night

When popes are elected, they bless the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square. But on 13th March 2013, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, asked the crowd to bless him.


2.   Giving up papal regalia such as red shoes and the gold pectoral cross

Pope Francis has refused to wear ermine-lined capes, red papal shoes and the gold pectoral cross donned by his predecessors, choosing regular black shoes and a pectoral cross made of inexpensive metals.


3.   Shunning the palace

Pope Francis has refused to live in the Apostolic Palace that housed other popes, choosing instead to live in the Vatican guest house and dine in the cafeteria with everyone else.


4.   Calling regular people on the telephone

What would you do if you received a phone call and you heard this, “Hello, this is the pope calling from Rome”? Many people around the world, including simple, regular folks like you and me, have received just that call and, guess what? It really was Pope Francis on the other end of the line. He prefers hand-written notes and personal phone calls over having his secretary send out formal notices on his behalf.


5.   Washing the feet of 12 prisoners, including a Muslim woman                  

Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 young prisoners in a penitentiary in Rome on Holy Thursday. Catholic liturgy states that on Holy Thursday the pope should wash the feet of only men. Among those whose feet were washed by Francis on this day was a Muslim woman. Some conservatives didn’t like this. I did.


6.   Lovingly holding the disfigured face of a man in his hands

Vinicio Riva, a 53-year-old Italian man, suffers from neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disease. Pope Francis held the man’s face, disfigured with huge boils, in his hands – sweeping away any thought of ugliness with a scene of profound beauty.

7.   Letting the children come to him

At the Vatican’s Year of Faith celebration last October, a young boy walked up onstage to the Pope and decided to hug his leg, much to the chagrin of Cardinals and other aids who tried to shoo him away. The pope, of course, was annoyed not one iota, and let the little boy sit in his chair while he resumed his speech. Last month another little boy pulled off the pope’s skull cap and started playing with it, and Francis just smiled.


8.   Riding around in buses and old cars

Pope Francis shuns the bullet-proof Mercedes limousines used by his predecessors, and instead drives himself around the Vatican in a used 1984 Renault with 300,000 km (186,000 miles) on it, gifted to the Pope after he urged people not to drive in expensive cars, but save the money and donate it to the poor. Right after he was elected as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, he took a bus from the Sistine Chapel to the Vatican along with the other Cardinals.


9.   Giving Christmas gifts to the poor

Pope Francis gave 2000 prepaid telephone cards and 4000 Metro day tickets to poor immigrants at Dono di Maria, a shelter in Rome run by the Missionaries of Charity on 14th December 2013. Each gift came with a Christmas card signed by the pope.


10.          Changing old priorities

He has instructed the Church hierarchy to speak less about same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion, which were previously high priorities. Pope Francis wants the focus instead to be on building a more compassionate world – not unlike a certain figure in history upon whose existence the Church is founded.