Shaking Pope Francis’ hand, I am most struck by his tenderness in action.
It was the summer of 2019 and I was interning for the office of communications at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. One afternoon, word got around that there would be a low-key papal visit. Needless to say, nothing papal is low-key. Fast-forward, my Jesuit boss for the summer and I are armed with DSLRs awaiting our Jesuit brother turned global Church leader arrive at the community’s rendezvous point to cover a two-hour visit. I’m already about to sweat bullets. Pope Francis arrives, emerges from the security car - snap, snap, snap, snap - but then, we stop. The Holy Father is looking directly at us. He is walking toward us. I look at my Jesuit supervisor like, “What do we do?!” to which the natural response was, “Greet him.” Lol. With a gentle look and a warm smile to match his handshake, he acknowledged everyone present. He acknowledges everyone with tenderness. This comes from a core of deep compassion for others and the world we live in.
A man dedicated to care for creation, serving the marginalized and vulnerable, Pope Francis has spoken out against ecological injustice, poverty, inequality, and discrimination, and has urged people to put aside their differences and work together for the common good. Sure, like many, I have strong feelings about the current milieu surrounding certain issues in our Church - the role of women in the Church, the welcoming of LGBTQ communities. Still, I live in the hope of our leader’s continued commitment to dialogue and reconciliation, imperfect as our Church may be.
Thank you, Pope Francis for holding up the banner of Christ in the way that you have been called. We will continue to pray for you just as you asked us to in your first day on the job behind a balcony over St. Peter’s Square.