Without a doubt, Pope Francis can draw a crowd. He catches people’s attention. He continues to intrigue and interest people. He moves them to think and share—people of all backgrounds and persuasions, young and old alike, inside and outside the Church. However, he remains in some ways an enigmatic pope whose words and gestures, priorities and preferences can cause a bit of a stir and some confusion—regularly and from day one.
To some degree, his appeal is simply due to the fact that he is the pope. Interest in the pope has been on the upswing for decades from John Paul II to Francis, drawing large crowds to papal events inside and outside the Vatican. Whether the world admits it or not, the Vicar of Christ is a leader, is looked at and listened to—even by mockers. The fact that this pope draws the daily attention of so many outsiders, including non-believers, is undeniable.
Why? What is his pope appeal that is likewise creating so many waves?
For one, Pope Francis tweets regularly. We also see and hear Pope Francis more often than we did his predecessors thanks to his daily homilies. He preaches every morning at a Mass that resembles a weekday Mass at a neighborhood parish. The preacher pope almost always delves into the scripture readings of the day, connecting them to everyday life. Much like Jesus, when preaching in his day, Pope Francis addresses both the haughty and the humble—with harsh and kind words, respectively. His preaching style is shocking to some and refreshing to others. He weighs in on a variety of current issues in newsworthy ways, not unlike many of his predecessors. He speaks openly with reporters and even grants unusual interviews—to liberals and conservatives, atheists and Catholics, Protestants and secular media outlets. He stimulates thought and discussion, even debate and headache. He is continuously novel, speaking of old things in new ways and of new things in stimulating ways. Without a doubt, his words and gestures can barely go unnoticed, and his Franciscan communication style is unique. This is by design. He is a man on a mission, a purpose-driven padre. He arrived on the Catholic and world scene as a new communicator for a new evangelization.