In the 9 months since his installment, Pope Francis has been full of surprises. The fact that he was the first non-European pope in 1300 years started things off. But it only got better from there.
Now Reuters reports that Pope Francis, in just those 9 months, has drawn triple the crowds that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, did in the entirety of 2012. Figures released by the Vatican those that 6.6 million people attended events with Pope Francis from March through December, 2013. By comparison, only 2.3 million attended Benedict events.
The news that Francis is more popular is not surprising, but the fact that he draws this many more people may be. Perhaps the fact that he was the most talked-about topic on Facebook for 2013 should have been a clue, or his selection as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.
This new pope has built a quick reputation as a reformer, sensitive shepherd, and all around breath of fresh air to a church that was losing members fast and rocked by sexual and financial scandals.
Pope Francis eschewed the usual papal trappings and has traveled and lived a simpler lifestyle. He has demanded the clean-up of the Vatican Bank, an organization known to be rife with scandal. He has chastised clergymen who were living far beyond their means, especially in a city with the highest concentration of beggars in the world. And he has brought his church back to the basics of the teachings of love, creating an atmosphere where many former Catholics are considering returning.
What 2014 has in store for Pope Francis remains to be seen, but he will certainly be watched.
Image via Wikimedia Commons