OK, how far can this go? Not only was he Time's Person of the Year, not only was he Religion Newsmaker of the Year (according to the Religion Newswriters Association, of which I am an active member), but now Pope Francis is officially cool.
It's a thrill no pope has ever known -- to get his picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone. He may not have the groupies or gurus that Dr. Hook once sang about, but the cover story describes him as an unexpected "change agent" elected by a papal conclave last March that thought it was getting a caretaker:
"After the disastrous papacy of Benedict, ... Francis' basic mastery of skills like smiling in public seemed a small miracle to the average Catholic. But he had far more radical changes in mind. By eschewing the papal palace for a modest two-room apartment, by publicly scolding church leaders for being "obsessed" with divisive social issues like gay marriage, birth control and abortion ("Who am I to judge?" Francis famously replied when asked his views on homosexual priests) and – perhaps most astonishingly of all – by devoting much of his first major written teaching to a scathing critique of unchecked free-market capitalism, the pope revealed his own obsessions to be more in line with the boss' son."
I guess we should be grateful that Rolling Stone portrays him in papal attire, since many of its cover subjects appear without attire of any type.
But the cover shot isn't the only recent papal precedent. Francis also plans to be the first pontiff in decades to attend an international meeting of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, to be held in Rome this June. That movement traces its origins to a retreat Duquesne University here in 1967. Manifestations of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement -- such as lively worship, praying in tongues and seeking miraculous healings -- jumped the Protestant-Catholic divide at that time.
(UPDATE: Originally we said he was the first-ever to attend, based on this report. But I was informed that Pope Paul VI did indeed speak at an early gathering in 1975.)
Pope Francis, asked about the renewal during that famous in-flight press conference between Rio and Rome last year, spoke warmly of the movement. He disputed the idea that the Catholics had gotten on board as a reaction to the successes of Pentecostal movements in luring away Latin American Catholics:
"Back at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, I had no time for" charismatics. ... ""Once, speaking about them, I said: 'These people confuse a liturgical celebration with samba lessons!'
"Now I regret it. Now I think that this movement does much good for the church, overall.
"I don't think that the charismatic renewal movement merely prevents people from passing over to Pentecostal denominations. No! It is also a service to the church herself! It renews us."
Why is Pittsburgh so great? Why is Baltimore so... bad? And why is Harrisburg the capital of Pa.?
Why is Harrisburg so...
Let's take a look at Pittsburgh's rival cities...
Why is Baltimore so...
And lastly, why is Portland so... Weird, right?