I’m not Roman Catholic, but he’s the sort of leader I would gladly follow, the kind of Christ-like example I want to follow.
But incarnated grace aside, the thing that’s really shocked me the most about Pope Francis is the response he’s received from those outside the faith.
And I don’t just mean non-Catholics.
I mean those of entirely different religious traditions, but especially those with no religious affiliation at all and those who oppose religion altogether.
If you spend enough time on the internet, you can just about predict the sorts of comments that will appear under religious news stories, particularly stories about the Roman Catholic church. To say the comments are typically not kind would be an understatement. Even calling them irrationally hateful doesn’t quite capture the vitriol spewed in those comment sections.
Which is why I’ve been so blown away by the comments left on stories about Pope Francis.
I expected to find cheap shots about the child abuse scandal, dismissals of his actions as a PR stunt, or at least a bizarre rant about how helping the poor is actually evil.
But I’ve found almost none of that. And trust me I’ve tried to find it.
I winced in fear the first time I scrolled down to the comments section under a Pope Francis story that really moved me, knowing the internet trolls would be there waiting to gleefully destroy my happiness. But they weren’t there. So I kept scrolling. And still nothing. Then I went to another site thinking surely they’ve got to be hiding out over there. But they were virtually nowhere to be found.
As someone (a blogger) who spends an absurd amount of time on the internet and an equally absurd amount of time reading through comments, I’m telling you this is a big deal. I’ve never seen anything like it and I don’t think I’m likely to see such a near universal outpouring of love, support, open-mindedness, acceptance, and grace again anytime soon – if ever.
That’s just not the way the internet works. The internet breeds cynicism and hate. It’s like it’s in its DNA. Even in the most warm-hearted stories you’ll find somebody making a cynical, hateful, or smartass remark just because they can.
But with Pope Francis it’s just not there and its absence is incredible.
Maybe even more incredible is the fact that Pope Francis hasn’t just silenced his critics.
He’s won them over.
Which makes me really hopeful.
RELATED: Another writer offers his thoughts on “5 ways Pope Francis is resuscitating the Catholic Church.” His reasons range from fuller pews to renewed popularity of the name “Francis.”