This week marks the one-year anniversary of Benedict XVI’s announcement of his retirement and the beginning of the process that brought Jorge Bergoglio to the Throne of St. Peter.
Catholics looking for an easy way to learn more about our new Pope have a tool in “Through the Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections,” published by Our Sunday Visitor.
ZENIT spoke with the editor of the book, Kevin Cotter, about our “very quotable” Pontiff.
ZENIT: Francis has been Pope for less than a year, so he does not yet have hundreds of papal addresses and messages. Was it difficult to find texts for a daily reader?
Cotter: While Francis has been Pope for less than a year, it is amazing to see how many addresses, speeches, and messages that he has delivered so far. In addition to this, Pope Francis is a very quotable person. He has the ability to give great, punchy phrases and quotes that fit the length of a daily reflection book very well. It was still quite the task to read through all of his writings and compile the best quotes, but I think the quality is very good.
ZENIT: If we had any remaining doubts, the recent Rolling Stone feature has confirmed for us that the secular media is enamored with Pope Francis. Catholics know that the secular media’s presentation of his message isn’t exactly accurate, however. What will readers find in your book about “the real Pope Francis”?
Cotter: First, as Catholics, we shouldn’t be surprised by the media’s false image of Pope Francis and the Church. While we shouldn’t be happy with it, we should expect it. Jesus says in Matthew 11:18-19: “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” From the very beginning, the Church was misperceived and misrepresented by the “media” of their age.
Second, as far as the book, it is an opportunity to listen and think over the words of Pope Francis from the man himself, not sensational news articles. You will find that he challenges Catholics to live out the Gospel in all areas of the faith – to welcome people in your parish, to care for the poor, to evangelize, to pray, etc.
ZENIT: Because of background or character, Francis has a knack for saying things with vivid visual imagery. Is that reflected in your book? Could you give some examples?
Cotter: This is one of Francis’ great traits as a communicator. His imagery helps make his messages tangible and relatable. He likes to make analogies to various things like dump trucks, hairspray, the World Cup, swimming, sheep, climbing, sailing, and soap bubbles.
Pope Francis repeatedly talks about the wrong kind of Christians and this imagery comes out here as well. He talks about “neat and tidy Christians”, “part-time Christians”, “starched Christians”, “remote-controlled Christians”, and “slumbering Christians”.
ZENIT: We know of Francis’ love for the poor. Are there other favorite Francis themes that stand out to you?
Cotter: I think that the word encounter is a huge theme for Francis and he uses it very often. Last Pentecost he said, “For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others…. we must create a ‘culture of encounter.’”
The theme of mercy is essential for him as well. Pope Francis notes that mercy “is the Lord’s most powerful message.” He notes that we must not lose sight of this mercy, that we must trust in it, and that we must give this mercy to others.
Finally, Pope Francis encourages his listeners to evangelize over and over. We must be a Church who is willing to take our faith and share it with others.
ZENIT: Why should Catholics read what the Pope has to say?
Cotter: On one level, when we read the words of the Pope ourselves, it helps us to understand what the Pope is actually saying and the context in which he is speaking. This is important as the media on all sides produces stories and articles that often misrepresent the Holy Father.
On a deeper level, what you find with Pope Francis is that he is an incredible communicator of the Gospel. This Gospel is sometimes alarming, comforting, unbelievable, simple, radical, and even somehow all of these things simultaneously. As Catholics, we need to continually experience the power of this Gospel. Knowing and living this power of the Gospel is vital if our Catholic faith will make a difference in this world and Pope Francis has a wonderful ability to help us do this.
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