He has been called the people’s pope.
Pope Francis was welcomed to the United States Wednesday morning by thousands of people lining the streets of Washington.
And it was clear from the crowd’s reception that he connects with people in a way that few do, whether pope, politician, or rock star.
Others attempt to define him, but Francis defines himself by his words and his actions.
On the plane from Cuba to Washington yesterday, as reported in the National Catholic Register, Pope Francis told reporters who he is in plain language.
He’s simply a man who enjoys meeting people and building relationships with them.
“I like to meet with all people,” he said. “I consider that all people are children of God and the law. And, secondly, a relationship with another person always enriches.
It is a simple message, one that can get lost in all the noise about what Francis might or might not do to change the Church.
But since the beginning of his papacy, wherever he has been, Francis has been seen reaching out to people in the crowd, and often reaching out to those most neglected by society.
He did the same in Cuba. And because he reaches out, people respond.
At Catholic University, before heading over to the White House, Francis slowly walked along the barrier separating him from the crowd and reached out to them. He spoke with the students who were thrilled to see him. He shook their hands. They waved small papal flags and cheered.
The media is getting his message.
On CBS News Special Report Wednesday morning, Pope Francis was defined by Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, a papal consultant, as both a “normal man” and a man who “seeks people out,” particularly those who suffer.
A reporter called him authentic.
Francis doesn’t always choose his words well, but on the plane from Cuba he did. Asked whether he is politically leftist, the National Catholic Register reports that he responded by placing himself firmly in the tradition of the Church.
“I’m sure that I haven’t said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church,” the paper reports the pope saying.
Others will attempt to define him, but on his way to the United States Francis clearly defined himself as a pastor who loves his flock and those outside it.
But he also defined himself as a pope who stands firm in the teachings of the Church.
Over the next few days, it will be interesting to see how well he stays on message, and whether the media continues to get it.