Hey, Pope Francis…
Don’t Be a Stranger

 By Jim Berlin 

While the residents of New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. might disagree, Pope Francis is mistaken if he returns home believing he has seen America.

During the pontiff’s six days in the USA he barely brushed the shoulder and squeezed the hand of this greatest of all nations. Granted, the cities he visited are vibrant symbols of our economy (NYC), our democracy (D.C.) and our revolutionary birth – Philly. But they are only three of the thousands of legs America stands and moves upon.

America is an idea as much as a place on the global map. And no one, including an Argentine priest living in the heart of Rome, can grasp on a brief visit who we are and how we feel about ourselves.

But he has discovered something about our heart and personality. We are a raucous, irreverent bunch, happy to welcome a pope who doesn’t pretend to walk arm-in-arm with the God almighty.

He is only a man and he knows it. One of his most common pleas – words he even spoke to House Speaker John Boehner in a private moment – is “Pray for me.”

No matter how large his entourage, Francis knows the journey is long and ultimately lonely. Like all of us, he knows he can’t make it without help.

So…we will pray for the man, and he for us.

And, Francis, anytime you’re in the neighborhood – the door is always open.

Jesus and Peter Unimpressed
by Humility of Pope Francis

By Jim Berlin

Admirers of humility are making much of the fact that the new Pope Francis lived in a modest apartment, cooked for himself and rode the bus to work while toiling as a cardinal in Argentina.

No big deal. Jesus often slept on the ground and was such an accomplished cook he once fed hundreds of followers a feast of loaves and fishes at a moment’s notice. (Each diner also received a small dinner salad with blue cheese dressing.) And The Man walked  — not rode – to work every day, when he could have had his pick of the best donkeys in Jerusalem.

That a pope is being praised for being down-to-earth is indicative of a long-standing problem among the Catholic hierarchy. The bishop in the city of my youth lived in a beautiful mansion in an exclusive part of town and rarely ventured out to visit the masses.

I saw him for the first and only time when he came to our parish to administer the sacrament of Confirmation. This was when my fellow seven-year-olds and I publicly professed our faith and, hopefully, received the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The ceremony included a part where we knelt at the altar railing, were anointed by the bishop and then kissed his ring. When it was my turn to comply I lowered my head toward the jewelry in question, stopped an inch short of it,

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and made a loud smacking noise with my lips.

I did not kiss the bishop’s ring.

First because it struck me as unsanitary, and second, because even at seven years of age I wasn’t in the ring-kissing business.

Upon meeting Peter, whom Catholics consider the first pope, the Roman centurion Cornelius fell at the fisherman’s feet and was immediately admonished: “Stand up,” Peter commanded. “I am a man just like you.”

Pope Francis seems to get that. If he keeps it, the Catholic Church has brighter days ahead.