The First American Pope

Americans invented modern advertising, publicity, and celebrity, three dubious accomplishments of Homo sapiens rapidly adopted by the rest of the world.  St. John Paul II was the first pope to recognize its immense power and put it to work, but it has been left to Pope Francis to perfect the papal technique.  In this sense, in arriving in the United States—a country he had never before visited—he really was coming home.

So much has been spoken and written about the man that there seems no point in repeating it here, except to note that Francis is unlikely to take some of the unprecedented steps he has hinted he will take, thus offending Catholics and secular observers of every political persuasion.  That will be unfortunate for him in the long run, but this, too, has been a much discussed subject, while two other aspects of his (indeed, the modern) papacy have been ignored.

Cradle Catholics of advancing years remember when the pope was a remote presence in parish churches and in Catholic homes.  His portrait hung in churches where he was prayed for at every Mass, and often in the living rooms of the faithful.  His encyclicals were read by a few, though their gist was known to many.  But the pope was not someone Catholics expected, or aspired, to see much of.  He was not a celebrity, but restricted his contact with the public pretty much to appearances on the front...

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