Will Pope Francis get a performance review?

Vatican Pope New Car

As Pope Francis approaches the first anniversary of his election as Bishop of Rome (a title he prefers), I was wondering if the Vatican’s personnel committee was planning a performance review – you know, a little helpful feedback on how he’s doing, some praise points as well as areas that need improvement.

I’m not volunteering for the assignment, but I had a few thoughts to pass along.  Sorry, they’re in English, not in Latin.

First, people have paid a lot of attention to where the Pope lives.   Apparently he’s chosen not to occupy the sumptuous papal apartments, but has chosen instead to stay in the same dormitory room where he was quartered during the conclave last year. At first I wondered why it mattered so much where he lived, and then I remembered that a lot of people have paid attention over the years to where I live too. A nice house (but not too nice) seems to be the preference. So, high marks here for his holiness.

Second, the car he drives. Pope Francis has famously ditched the old pope mobile (provided by Mercedes) and has opted instead for a less ostentatious vehicle (a Renault), more moderately priced, but still sturdy. Again, the holy father should be commended. Transportation choice says a lot about a pastor’s character, though I’ve never been able to figure out what exactly. Red convertible? No, no, no. Black sedan? Perfect! (Preferably used, but still in good working order.)

Third, the shoes he wears. I don’t remember this, but the Pope’s predecessor (I forget his name) apparently preferred to wear an expensive brand of slippers, with showy red soles. Many people were put off by this, and the new Pope – to his credit – has opted for a simple black shoe, probably found on the shelf at Target. And then I can’t help but add here that the Pope frequently leaves the Vatican in the simple black attire of a parish priest, so he has noticeably dialed back the fashion forward look of the now-retired Benedict.  (I knew his name would come to me. How quickly we forget the last guy.)

Once again I say, good move! We don’t want our popes to be too concerned about their appearance. Neat, well-groomed, but modest.  Certainly no GQ covers.

And fourth – but, really, what else is there?

What about that first sermon he preached titled “The Joy of the Gospel”? I know a lot of people didn’t like it – Rush Limbaugh, for example – but I say it had good content and was passionately delivered. So, mixed reviews on this. He needs to step it up with his preaching – content and delivery.

Overall grade? The usual advice for new pastors is to make no dramatic changes during the first year. And the new pope has done nothing dramatic. No doctrines have been changed. No scriptural interpretation altered. Most of what the new pope has done has been … what, symbolic?

Yes, but strangely refreshing nonetheless.

(Photo: a sturdy used car for the new pope. Easy to park, gets good mileage. Just right!)

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


7 Responses to Will Pope Francis get a performance review?

  1. Susan deyoung March 11, 2014 at 5:16 am #

    Incredibly refreshing!! Love this Pope!! Too bad he doesn’t have wife to support him though!

    • Doug March 11, 2014 at 6:42 am #


  2. Dennis Ulmer March 11, 2014 at 8:11 am #

    I have a friend who is Catholic, and I asked him if he would like to meet the Pope? He said, “Not this one.” So that coming from a Catholic, I’m not sure what to think. (I do have other Catholic friends, and have not asked them their views of Pope Francis)

  3. Bob Kukla March 11, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    Dear Friend, I think you underrate some his impact on doctrinal change. In my mind, he has spent a year raising the issues, yet somehow lowering the rhetoric, and moving toward relevance for the Catholic Church. I think he knows that change in the church will not come as one edict or statement, but living a life of servanthood and Grace without judgment. Where he leads, the people will follow. I’m thrilled for all Christians at the prospects he brings for us.. Sorry, probably too serious of a response. Yes, Susan, I told Lynda early on that he will need the support that many of us gain from our spouses to take on the huge challenge he faces.

    • Doug March 11, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      Bob, I was warned that the Swiss wouldn’t understand satire, but I thought a person from Chicago would understand where I was going with that piece. I think I’m in agreement with you that he has introduced enormous change – without really changing anything. The satire was that the focus in the media has largely been on where he lives, what he drives, and what he wears. Do I think the new pope is doing a good job. Yes, I do. And as hard it is for some Protestants to understand, we need him to do well.

  4. Jeff Edwards March 11, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    I haven’t forgot the last guy. 8-). Or my review of his vehicle lol. My bad

  5. mike March 11, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    Hi Doug –

    I agree with Susan’s comment – but The Bishop of Rome probably gets to watch whatever he wants on TV as a trade-off.

    And now for something more than a little “outside-of-the-box” (so to speak). Check this out:


    Makes me feel pretty good about pocketing that nickel I found on the floor
    by Mrs. Kaler’s desk (4th grade). Of course, I could go on…and on.

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