As the Alitalia flight carrying Pope Francis landed in Rio de Janeiro, a palpable excitement filled the air as hundreds of thousands filled the streets of Brazil and millions following on TV and Internet, awaited the arrival of the first Latin American Pope in South America.
Journalists present on the plane stated that the Holy Father, in true humble fashion, asked permission to enter Brazil before descending from the plane. Welcoming Pope Francis was President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, civil authorities and prelates from the country. A children’s choir welcomed the Pope with songs, bringing a smile to the Pontiff’s face has he paused to listen.
Many were surprised as the Holy Father stepped inside a small Fiat Idea, not the usual automobile choice for a papal visit. Already this was an indication that this papal visit was going to be very different from any others.
The styles of both Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI were just as humble and friendly as Francis, the only difference being is that they followed the normal protocols set in place for their protection: bullet proof cars, routes along cordoned areas, etc.
Many use Pope Francis’ humble style as a subtle dig at his predecessors for what they consider extravagant luxuries afforded to a Bishop of Rome who speaks on the need to help the poor from a golden throne.
They couldn’t be more wrong. The successor to Peter doesn’t “own” those luxuries, no more than a person hired for a greater position in their company doesn’t “own” their new office with the beautiful view outside their window.
Pope Francis simply chooses to continue his way of doing things as he’s always had when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. And this simple act is drawing the attention of millions as evidenced yesterday when the papal motorcade came to a standstill as the Pope’s car was surrounded by faithful wishing to greet him.
Even more surprising, the Pope didn’t hide; on the contrary, he kept his window open, greeting people as if nothing. The Pope’s security detail, however, broke a sweat.
It may seem irresponsible for some, or even careless that a man of the Pope’s stature be allowed to be swarmed like that but it truly is a testament to the bravery of Francis. It takes only one disgruntled or mentally unstable person to mix in with the crowd and endanger his life, yet he doesn’t shy away. He opens his window and extends his hand. He wants to be a part of their lives, he wants to comfort them; a shepherd ‘who smells like his sheep.’
This is the beauty of the World Youth Day. Looking back at the past 30 years, we see the scope of God’s love through the Apostolic Visits. Blessed John Paul II brought the peace of God to the Soul, Benedict XVI challenged youth to love God with all their Minds, and now Francis brings the message of God’s love to people’s Hearts.