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Profile: Why Pope Francis Is the People’s Pope




Pope Francis is set to visit the Philippines in January 2015 in order to meet the victims of typhoon Yolanda, which wreaked havoc on the country last November. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Pope called for prayers and aid for the Filipinos affected by the disaster.
 
This is the first time since Pope John Paul II came to Manila in 1995 for the World Youth Day that the highest leader of the Catholic Church will visit the country.
 
Like people from areas struck by typhoon Yolanda, Pope Francis comes from humble roots. Before he became pontiff, he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the son of a rail worker father and a housewife mother.
 
He led a simple life as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. When he became pope, he took on the name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, who was known to have shunned wealth to live in poverty like common people.
 
Pope Francis is the first non-European and Latin American pope in 1,300 years, and is also the first Jesuit to become pope in the 2,000 year-history of the Catholic Church.
 
Pope of the poor
 
After being elected in March 2013, Pope Francis has demonstrated his kindness and compassion for the poor and the marginalized.
 
Shortly after taking the reins of the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church, he washed the feet of a Muslim woman jailed in Rome's youth prison as part of the Holy Thursday ceremony.
 
That was the first time the ceremony was taken to a youth prison, and the first time women were included in the ritual. Traditionally, only men participated because all of Jesus' apostles were males, but two of the 10 inmates whose feet the Pope washed were women.
 
Pope Francis also touched, kissed, and blessed a man covered in tumors last November after the general audience held in St. Peter's square in Vatican. It was a scene akin to the story of Jesus healing and touching lepers.
 
The Pope also celebrated his 77th birthday last December with three homeless people, sharing his birthday breakfast with them and treating them like family. 
 
Pope Francis has also made himself more accessible to the people, allowing children to come near him in public appearances.
 
He continues to live a modest life, preferring to live in an ordinary hotel instead of the official papal apartments. He took the bus hours after being elected the new pontiff and refuses to use luxury cars for the Pope Mobile.
 
Pope Francis has also foregone getting a passport as a privileged citizen of Vatican, instead applying for an ordinary Argentine passport. In addition, he continued to wear simple white priest robes instead of ornate garments. 
 
For bringing the Catholic Church closer to the common people, Time Magazine named him as the Person of the Year last December. The pope urged the clergy to live humbly and seek out and extend a helping hand to the needy.
 
Criticizing capitalism
 
Pope Francis also spoke out against what he called "savage capitalism," which he said exploits people to rake in more profits. He condemned what he called the "dictatorship of economy" and the "cult of money" during an address to Gift of Maria food kitchen in Vatican.
 
He also expressed disappointment in what he called the "tyranny of markets." The pope said that an economy of exclusion on inequality kills in his apostolic exhortation, or the manifesto of papacy.
 
"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?" the Pope said in the document.
 
He also urged the politicians to provide work, healthcare, and education to all citizens in the manifesto, which had been called a "Magna Carta for church reform" by Vatican analyst John Thavis.
 
Progressive views
 
The pope has also taken a more progressive approach toward non-believers and members of the lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual (LGBT) community.
 
"God's mercy is limitless," the Pope wrote in a letter to La Repubblica, an Italian secular newspaper. "The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience."
 
The Advocate, an LGBT-interest magazine also named Pope Francis its Person of the Year after he told media, "If someone is gay and is looking for the Lord, who am I to judge him?" on the plane on his way back from the World Youth Day held in Brazil.
 
Pope Francis, however, remained firm in opposing gay marriage. He said that marriage is between man and a woman. But the Pope called for the suspension of judgment and instead seek out understanding of the LGBT situation. — JST, GMA News/Reuters file photo
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