Pope Francis’ impromptu press conference on a plane has lit up social media today. His comments on women, homosexuality, the Vatican bank, and much more have given people plenty to chew on.
Here’s one thing I found interesting: Francis stood there for nearly 90 minutes and answered questions. When was the last time any major public figure did that? President Obama? Nope. He gave a great speech on race last week, and then walked out without answering questions. When public figures make major campaign announcements—Hillary Clinton endorsing same-sex marriage, for instance—it is done in a polished video which we all watch, but of which none of us can ask questions.
What I love about this picture is how interested and engaged the pope seems with his questioner. How many public figures can you think of who feel that way about the press? The press? Keep your distance from them, please.
One of the defining characteristics of Jesus’ ministry was his accessibility: the children, the woman who grabbed at his cloak as he walked by, the woman sitting at the well, etc., etc. It’s something Francis has done as well, and something he talked about in his press conference:
I could be close to the people, greet them, embrace them, without armored cars. During the entire time, there wasn’t a single incident. I realize there’s always a risk of a crazy person, but having a bishop behind bulletproof glass is crazy, too. Between the two, I prefer the first kind of craziness.
I think accessibility is good—to the press, to the people, the sick, the young, the rich, the old, women, men, gay, straight. The more we are in relationship with people, the more we are engaging those who are different to us, the more we are open to what spontaneously happens, the more I think we are living into the world God is calling us to.
So whatever you think about what Francis said today—and there is a lot there to digest—I hope some other public figures follow his lead and wander to the back cabin of their planes on their next trip.
I’d prefer that kind of craziness, too.