Pope Francis just keeps turning up the humility heat.

(Reuters) – Pope Francis surprised his own master of ceremonies on Friday by confessing his sins to an ordinary priest in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope was presiding at service intended to show the importance he attaches to the sacrament of reconciliation, commonly known as confession.

After reading a sermon, he was to have gone to an empty confessional booth to hear confessions from ordinary faithful as some 60 priests scattered around the huge church did the same.

His master of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, pointed him toward the empty booth but the pope went straight to a another one, knelt before a surprised priest, and confessed to him for a few minutes.

He then went back to the empty one and heard the confessions of a number of faithful.


There is a risk of course in these dramatic gestures by Pope Francis, particularly with official photographers apparently poised to snap the historic event. These photo-ops could come across as showmanship, grand-standing, a “look-at-me-being-so-humble” gesture.

But, Francis seems again and again to be able to pull off these startling actions in a manner that is convincing and compelling. This feat can only be accomplished by a person who is genuinely on the inside what he appears to present himself to be on the outside.

Pope Francis seems to be a man who is congruent. His exterior life appears to be a reflection of his interior life. He has an integrity that is hard to find in much of public life. His life is consistent.

Francis apparently lacks the problem Jesus saw in some of the religious officials of his day when he castigated them saying,

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.’ (Matthew 23:27)

The problem with the Pharisees is that they did not know who they were. They believed that their identity resided in their appearance and their function. They were driven by the need to protect their power, privilege, and position because if these were threatened, they were threatened.

The Pope’s confession shows that Pope Francis is willing to put aside the trappings of his office and step out from behind the grandeur of his position to be simply a man like other men.

I do not suppose Pope Francis reads Wendel Berry, but he seems to understand what Mr. Berry captures so beautifully when he writes,

A Warning To My Readers

Do not think me gentle
because I speak in praise
of gentleness, or elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.

Do not think me grand because I wear the robes of a Pope or great because I meet with presidents and kings. I am “a man crude as any”. I need to kneel like all humans before God and “honor the grace/that keeps this world”.

Let us pray that all leaders in the church may be inspired by the “wonder” of this holy man.


ps. And while we are on the topic of dramatic Papal gestures. How does one account for this?

LOS ANGELES, Calif. After a 10-year-old California girl travelled to the Vatican to plead with Pope Francis for help as her father faced deportation, the man was released Friday on bond from immigration detention.


The Associated Press
Pope Francis leans down to talk to 10-year-old Jersey Vargas, who traveled to the Vatican from Los Angeles to plead with him to help spare her father from deportation