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!)