Worth reading today, even if Frank Bruni tends toward the Rolling Stone broad brush side of religion journalism.
The money quotes:
Above all, Francis has recognized and taken advantage of the fact that people of all stripes — liberals, conservatives — are as hungry for saints as they are for, well, chocolate. They may not have much patience for the vocabulary of shame and the fustiest definitions of sin, but they want examples of goodness and calls to grace, and they’ll respond eagerly to the ones that don’t come with exclusionary rules and harping about penance. That’s part of what gave Mandela and Gandhi such currency beyond their countries. They were spiritual leaders minus the catechism. The world has no glut of these.
“I believe in God, not in a Catholic God,” Francis has said, and he’s even expressed respect for atheists. When one of the stars of “Philomena” and the woman on whom it’s based visited the Vatican last week, he wasn’t put off by complaints about the movie’s anti-Catholicism or suspicion that the pair’s visit was part of an Oscar campaign. He welcomed and met with them.
An ecumenical papacy, he realizes, has more sway and stamina than a narrowly, stridently pious one. It’s a big tent he’s unfurling. Parrots and porn stars welcome.