Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires who became Pope Francis last spring, has revivified the papacy. He has chosen not to live in the Vatican’s lush Apostolic Palace, and he tools around Vatican City in a 1984 Renault compact. In a now-famous interview with the Jesuit magazine America, Francis called himself a sinner and reached out to gays, divorced couples, and other constituencies cold-shouldered by mainstream Catholicism.
The cynics, who are often right, say Bergoglio’s gestures are meant to divert attention from the church’s retrograde doctrines on women, same-sex marriage, and so on. Optimists hoping for change in the 2,000-year-old papacy welcome the breath of fresh air and hope that deeds will follow words.