Across Europe, in Italy, France, Austria, and Germany, there is overwhelming praise for Pope Francis after 100 days in office.
In Italy L’Adige writes,
A hundred days from the white smoke on that rainy evening of March 13th, there is no sign of letup of the ‘honeymoon’ between Pope Francis and the growing masses of the faithful. The words of gestures of a pope who cleared the field of papal trappings and heavy protocol to make way for the papacy’s pastoral nature as ‘bishop of Rome,’ close to the people, especially close to the poor and weak, are fascinating not only to believers, but also to nonbelievers from the whole world.
In France, Le Figaro wonders when the “papamania” will let up:
The gulf between the Catholic Church and public opinion seems to be reduced, thanks to a very popular and unconventional pope. Two objective indicators show the rapprochement: the number of people at Wednesday people audiences has nearly quadrupled. From an average of 25,000 people, the attendance approaches 100,000 people. And the new crowds that stream into St. Peter’s Square are not primarily the pious, nor the ‘Catholic” in the strict sense, but those curious to see the man in white up close. To the point of sometimes being magnetized by his charism of simplicity. The second measurable index: the Twitter account of the pope, launched by Benedict XVI with two million subscribers, has more than tripled.
The paper notes that, with Francis’ avoidance of the term ‘pope’ in favor of ‘bishop of Rome’ and his decision not to live in the official papal apartments, some are worried about a ‘desecration of the papal office.’
In Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna says, “I think that this fresh spirit, the good humor and also the challenge from Pope Francis, is good for all of us. In an unbelievable way, he knows how to bring together the radicality of Christianity with the joy of Christianity.” He said to Kathweb, “Sometimes I have the impression that we’re so grumpy, grim, and joyless. We ought to look more redeemed.” Schönborn spoke of a fundamentally entirely new positive attitude in the Church and in Austria in general: “If the horse-drawn carriage drivers in Cathedral Square are an indication of the opinion of people in our country, then this pope is much beloved.”
In the Bavarian Sonntagsblatt (“Sunday Paper”), Tilmann Kleinjung writes that “after only 100 days in office, this new pope has already made many people happy.” He writes:
Hardly a wonder that so many people want to approach this gregarious pope, who breaks down the barriers between himself and the world and makes a campaign out of modesty… But one cannot reduce him to questions of style anymore, as happened in the first days after his election. His modestly, demonstratively put on display, is a clear call to all bishops, priests, and faithful to do the same as him. His lived out modeling may well effect more than any wordy and brilliant encyclical…
Whoever wishes to understand Francis must understand his gestures: the foot-washing in the youth detention center on Holy Thursday, the morning Masses in the guesthouse at which he gradually wishes to get to know every Vatican colleague, or the fact that the pope only speaks of himself as “Bishop of Rome.”
Kleinjung sees this manner of self-address as a strong ecumenical impulse. He notes that the president of the council of the Evangelical (i.e. Protestant) Church in Germany, Nikolaus Schneider, positively raved about the pope after meeting him. “He has reduced the overpowering aspect of the office of pope,” he said. He hopes that with this pope, ecumenism can be less rationalistic and inhibited and become a passion of the heart.
Jörg Bremer notes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that St. Peter’s Square is packed at every general audience:
Noticeably many Italians want to experience the new pope. Some bring a zucchetto, the white skullcap, and hope that Francis will come to them when he goes into the crowd. Then they would exchange the new one for the old one, as often happens. ‘Francis has developed a cult character,’ some say; he certainly speaks to young and old, rich and poor. In this it seems that his open and hearty manner is more important than his words. With him at has again become easier for church institutions like Cor Unum to raise money. In February, [Archbishop Gerhard] Müller [prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] still spoke of a ‘pogrom disposition’ against the church. But with Francis, the ‘powers that wish to discredit the church have not disappeared, but they are less aggressive and are waiting to see.’
Archbishop Müller speaks about liturgy: “The liturgy is solemn and has splendor and beauty, but it shouldn’t degenerate into pageantry,” and he speaks of a “noble, quite simplicity.” Churchgoers “deserve that the priest not show up in stained vestments and the flowers on the altar not be dried up, but simplicity is good.”
All translations by awr.