What a difference a pope makes! Benedict was a clothes horse. He used so much ermine in his regalia that there was an ermine shortage while he was enjoying his papacy. He dusted off thousand year old vestments and tiaras. Meanwhile, he insisted that he hadn’t done anything significant in the Hitler Youth, even though they were the most fanatical Nazis next to the SS. Did he worry about the poor? He seemed to think that the important thing was to awe them with his clothes!
Now, along comes Pope Francis, proving that there is goodness in the old church, after all. Jesus was a poor man. He lived among the poor. Francis has put the ermine back in the drawer. He uses vestments that look air-conditioned compared to Benedict’s shrouds. Above all—and to the horror of many American conservative Catholics—he has refocused the Church on its most fundamental mission: follow Jesus, help others, live by compassion.
I think that resigning the papacy was the one good thing that Cardinal Ratzinger ever did. In that one moment of insight—perhaps, as he has implied, a moment of divine inspiration—he saw the truth of what he was and what he had to offer. He was the very picture of arrogance. What he had to offer was…more ermine.
I love Pope Francis.