by Clyde Ericson Nolasco
The world was too stunned to even process what happened ten years ago in the morning of February 11. After eight faithful and prayerful years, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI stepped down as Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. He was the first pope to resign in over 400 years. Seventeen days later, Rome officially became “tempe sede vacante.” And on March 13, the Catholic Church cried in thanksgiving, “habemus papam!” and the rest is history!
Let’s list down 10 significant facts about Pope Francis as we celebrate his tenth year as the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God. (Phew! That was loooong but all of those are in fact his titles!)
1. He is the first Pope from the Americas
Argentine Jorge Bergoglio’s election is not just historical because of his predecessor’s resignation. But the newly elected Pope himself is noteworthy especially as he is of many firsts. He is the first pope from the Western Hemisphere, the first from South America, the first from the Jesuit order and the first to take the name Francis.
On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio becomes Pope Francis (CNS)
2. He refused to wear the signature red shoes
As the newly elected Pope takes the name Francis, he is also taking the noble saint’s lifestyle and spirituality: poverty and simplicity. His first words as Pope included, “How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor." The new Pope refused the ermine-trimmed red velvet mozzetta, the gold pectoral cross and the pair of red shoes prepared for him. He kept his simple silver cross and well-worn black shoes.
3. He is the first Pope to refuse the Apostolic Palace to make Domus Casa Marta his home
Pope Francis very famously refused to live in the Vatican Palace, instead opting to stay in Domus Casa Marta. He chose to live in the very apartment where he was staying during the conclave. Moreso, there are days that he would take his meal at the Vatican canteen joining the employees for their lunch break.
4. He loves Tango
In a biography of Pope Francis entitled “The Great Reformer,” Austen Ivereigh mentions that the Pope is a great tango dancer. He even said that girls would even take turns to dance with the young Jorge. In 2010, the Pope said, “Tango comes from deep within me.”
5. He used to be a bouncer at a nightclub.
Before becoming a Pope, he took some odd jobs including being a sweeper, working in a chemical job and teaching high school. But the oddest among all was being a bouncer, a doorman or someone that kicks out troublemakers out of nightclubs.
6. He only has one lung.
Many were fascinated when they learned that the pope has only one lung. The Vatican confirms that the Pope lost part of his lung during his childhood due to a respiratory infection. But experts assure us that the pope is fit to take the role as the Pontiff.
7. He pops out of the Vatican.
The Pope, not being mindful of his ecclesial status, would sneak out of the Vatican from time to time. Once, he left the Vatican to personally visit an optician. As expected, he drew a crowd to the area wanting to have a picture with him. Also, during the 2022 pandemic, he slipped out of the Vatican to visit a record store buying Bach and Mozart exposing his taste for music.
Pope Francis out in of Vatican to visit an optician (AP, Mail Online).
8. He overturns tradition when it comes to women.
Though the Pope would stress the difference between a man and a woman, he never fails to promote gender equality. Except for the sacrament of the priesthood, the Pope helps in empowering women by appointing them to managerial roles in the Vatican. There are now 1,165 women compared to 320 ten years ago. Recently, he appointed three women to the Vatican's Dicastery for Bishops while another two to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology and the Dicastery for Culture and Education. Most noteworthy is that in the new Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, entitled "Praedicate evangelium", which Pope Francis promulgated on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph in 2022, he has allowed women, in fact lay women, to become heads of Dicasteries.
9. He allows children to approach him.
In many interesting situations, children would approach the Pope during audiences without being asked to leave. Like Jesus, the Pope would say, “Let the children come to me.” He would then cite them as an example in his messages. He even asked for couples to adopt from orphanages instead of preferring pets over children drawing mixed reactions from all over the world.
A kid approached Pope Francis during an audience (AP).
10. He has 53 million followers on Twitter, 9 million on IG.
With nine accounts in different languages, the Pope is a major player in the social media world. At the moment, his English twitter account alone has more than 18.9 million followers. In total, the Pope has a massive following of 53 million. On Instagram, the Pope has a whopping 9 million followers. The Pope being on social media is an affirmation of his own words that the “internet is a gift from God” thus a tool to foster dialogue and communication between peoples.
Most of all, he is the true embodiment of Synodality.
Aside from creating the Synod on Synodality, where for the first time the people themselves are involved in the Synod, Pope Francis has shown many times how he is one among us, especially when there are situations of suffering.
For Filipinos, let us not forget how he personally flew to Tacloban to be one with the locals who suffered the most devastating effects of Typhoon Haiayan / Yolanda.
And of course, how can we forget how we were truly one with us during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, presiding over Holy Mass live streamed daily from the chapel at Santa Marta, and walking alone on Good Friday in an empty St. Peter’s Square to deliver an extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” for people around the world as everyone suffered from the pandemic.
A sight to behold, Pope Francis alone in an empty St. Peter's Square. (Vatican Media).
We have truly been blessed with a genuine, compassionate, mission-centered Pope. From all of us at Dominus Est, Happy 10th year anniversary, Your Holiness!!!
Let us all continue to pray for Pope Francis’ intentions, especially for his good health.