Francis I does not wear one of the symbols of the Pope’s power – red shoes. He has refused to live in his predecessors’ palace in Vatican, because he finds it too luxurious. On the Holy Thursday (the last Thursday before Easter), His Holiness, following the tradition to wash somebody’s legs on this day, washed the legs of 12 teenage criminals. The new Pope is calling on the Church’s hierarchs to lead a modest and ascetic life. These and other topics are now being vividly discussed in newspapers and on the Web.
According to statistics, with the advent of the new Pope, the number of atheists who now want to adopt Christianity has increased in the world.
For the Roman Catholic world, this interest in the new Pope is quite explainable. It is no secret that before the new Pope was elected, the Roman Catholic Church was experiencing a crisis of power. Now, believers are expecting some reforms of the institution of papacy from the new Pope.
Italian expert in affairs in Vatican Marco Politi says:
"The new Pope has chosen the name Francis after Francis of Assisi, a medieval Italian saint who was known for his asceticism. Pope Francis I does not wear luxurious garments. He appears in a modest white robe with an iron cross on his chest. This may look a minor detail, but it speaks of the fact that the new Pope wants the Church to return to apostolic traditions of non-acquisitiveness."
The new Pope is also being vividly discussed in Russia, although the majority of Russians belong to another Christian denomination, known as Orthodoxy. Russian expert in religion Roman Lunkin explains this interest in the new Pope in Russia by Russians’ common interest in Christianity.
"The Soviet atheistic propaganda depicted the Christian Church as nothing than an earthly institution of priests who earn money by fooling people,” Mr. Lunkin says, “and now, quite a few Russians have not fully freed from this stereotype. However, now, a new Pope comes, who lives a very modest life and helps the poor. This creates an attractive image of the Church, and people become more interested in Christianity."
"It is only natural that Pope Francis is being vividly discussed in the Russian Orthodox Church, both by clergymen and parishioners," the senior priest of St. Seraphim’s church in Moscow Maxim Kozlov says. “It is no secret that the head of an institution to a large extent determines the entire policy of this institution, and the Roman Catholic Church is no exception from this rule.
"Some Russians are now comparing two church leaders, Pope Francis and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, saying that the Pope’s modesty should serve as an example for the Russian Patriarch,” Father Maxim continues. “But I believe that this is only a part of the campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church which was started by Russian atheists about a year ago."
"As a rule, critics of the Church know very little about religion,” Father Maxim says. “They are just incompetent in their judgments."
Like any euphoria, the current euphoria from the election of the new Pope will most likely pass with time. Time will probably come when Francis I will be quite often criticized, like it was with his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.