Pope Francis traveled to the tiny Mediterranean island of Lampedusa
in July to address the plight of migrants who navigate dangerous seas to
travel to Europe. Condemning a “global indifference” toward the less
fortunate, the Pontiff performed a mass and tossed a wreath into the sea
in memory of those who have drowned. Three months later, a boat
carrying 450 migrants capsized near the island; at least 114 died.
9. Dial S for Succor
Michele Ferri, a 14-year-old Italian boy, was devastated by the death
of his bother, a gas-station operator killed in a robbery. He posted to
Facebook that he couldn’t forigive God, and wrote a letter to the Pope.
On Aug. 7 he received a call. “Hi Michele, it’s Pope Francis,” said the
voice on the phone. The line became something of a catchphrase for the
“Cold-Call Pope,” who has dialed a series of strangers in distress.
8. South American Welcome
The Argentina-born Pope—the first Pontiff from the Americas—received a boisterous welcome when he arrived in Brazil for the 14th
World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July. Hundreds of thousands of
people came out to wish Francis well, and the humble Pontiff
reciprocated, stepping out of his car to walk through the city’s slums.
7. The Patient Pontiff
One young Catholic couldn’t contain his excitement about seeing the
Pope for the first time. Invited to sit near Francis as he spoke at the
Pontifical Council for the Family at the Vatican on Oct. 26, the child
climbed onto the stage and hugged the Holy Father mid-sentence. Unfazed,
Francis patted the boy on the head and let him sit in his chair while
he finished speaking.
6. Global Peacemaker
As the U.S. and its allies pressured Syria to abandon its chemical
weapons, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir
Putin, a key backer of the Syrian regime, appealing for peace.
Addressing Putin, who was hosting a summit of world leaders in St.
Petersburg, Francis wrote, “To the leaders present, to each and every
one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome
the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a
5. A Social Issues Shift?
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage
and the use of contraceptive methods,” Pope Francis said in an interview
published in Jesuit publications in September, capping his push for a
more inclusive church. The interview challenged Catholic attitudes on
homosexuality and the role of women in the church.
4. Habemus Papam
Pope Francis, then known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected
Pontiff on March 13, 2013, on the second day of the conclave and after
five rounds of votes. At 7:06 p.m. local time, white smoke rose from the
Sistine Chapel chimney, signaling that the wait was over.
3. A Compassionate Embrace
When Pope Francis unhesitatingly embraced a disfigured man in St.
Peter’s Square in early November, the whole world was moved. Vinicio
Riva, a 53-year-old man with von Reckilnghausen’s disease, told the
Italian magazine Panorama later that he was speechless at the time. “It
felt as if it were eternity,” he said. “I only felt love.”
2. ‘Who am I to Judge Them?’
Pope Francis burnished his reformist reputation when he stated in
July that he does not judge gays. “If they accept the Lord and have good
will, who am I to judge them?” he told reporters on his flight back
from Rio de Janeiro. “They shouldn’t be marginalized.” While church
doctrine on homosexuality remains unchanged, many perceived Francis’
comments as a shift in attitude.
1. The First Francis
Francis’ selection of his papal title made him the first Pope to choose St. Francis
of Assisi as his namesake. He later told journalists he picked the name
because he shared the Saint’s concern for the poor. “How I would like a
Church which is poor and for the poor!,” he said.