You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

editorial

Leading through modesty

At the conclusion of a trip to South America, Pope Francis made global headlines Monday with his comments expressing a level of acceptance of gay men as priests. Yet the first overseas journey of his papacy was striking from the outset — not just because of the air of openness Francis projected, but also because of the self-effacing way in which the new pope presented himself.

Francis’s modest style has been evident since his selection earlier this year. When he learned that admirers had installed a life-size statue of him in the cathedral in Buenos Aires, he got on the phone to his hometown with a blunt order: “Get that thing down immediately.” Instead of the luxury vehicles favored by his predecessors — Pope Benedict XVI had a BMW X5 and a custom-built electric Renault van — the new pope has been spotted in a decidedly less glamorous ride: a 2008 Ford Focus hatchback.

Continue reading below

In that same spirit, he began his weeklong visit to Brazil with an unusual request. In his public remarks last week after arriving in Rio de Janeiro, Francis said he wished to “knock gently” at Brazil’s door, and “ask permission to come in and spend this week with you.” This wasn’t strictly necessary; long before Francis arrived, Brazil was agog over the pope’s visit. A million or more religious pilgrims were pouring into Rio to see him. In this context, the sight of the pope toting his own carry-on luggage only underscores a modesty that’s becoming a welcome hallmark of his papacy.

The noteworthy comments that Francis made about gay priests — which represented at least a more welcoming, empathetic tone, if not a change in doctrine — were part of a remarkable 80-minute-long press conference aboard his plane. In a world with no shortage of ego or ostentation, Francis’ approachability and humility offer inspiration even to people outside his faith.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.