Pope Francis is undoubtedly the most relatable pope for millennials. Since becoming the pope in March 2013, Pope Francis is being called “the cool pope” by the younger generations. His views on women’s equality and human rights issues has been a game-changer in the Catholic Church. A church with a lineage of traditional structures has become more inclusive and accepting since Pope Francis’ papacy.
There are numerous reasons as to why the Pontiff has been able to connect with young adults and kids. For one, his usage of social media has garnered attention from both Catholics and non-Catholics. Earlier this year, Pope Francis became the first pope to join Instagram. Known for posing for selfies with people who are lucky enough to meet him, the Holy Father gained over one million followers in the first day of joining Instagram.
Pope Francis is also quite active on Twitter. Though his Twitter and Instagram posts are posted by the social media department of the Vatican, his tweets receive thousands of retweets and likes. On top of the Pope’s activity on social media, he released a mixtape almost exactly a year ago. In collaboration with Belief Digital, the rock and pop infused album titled “Wake Up!” consists of tracks with excerpts of his speeches and homilies.
Along with being relatable with millennials in the digital age aspect, he has also begun a conversation of controversial issues in the Church. Most recently, he announced that the Church will allow priests to grant absolution for abortion. Formerly, priests would have to go through a bishop to be able to do this. The announcement could not have come at a better time considering it came at the end of the yearlong Jubilee of Mercy. A year celebrating mercy, forgiveness and solidarity.
Pope Francis is often celebrated by Catholic women for his views on women’s equality in the home and in the Church. In his apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” the Pontiff directly addresses breaking down traditional gender roles and acknowledging the importance of women’s rights. He writes, “We must…see in the women’s movement the working of the Spirit for a clearer recognition of the dignity and rights of women.”.
Despite being a notably progressive pope, controversy arose earlier this month when he was asked about women being ordained in a news conference. “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last word is clear,” he replied. While it may seem easy to reverse patriarchal structures in the church, it is rather impossible. Seeing a woman priest will probably not happen anytime soon, but Pope Francis is constantly pushing for more leadership roles for women in the Church.
The Pontiff also recognizes the Church’s history of excommunicating those who do not follow traditional Catholic views on marriage, abortion etc., however, Pope Francis is calling for change. In a push for tolerance in the Church, the Holy Father has met with and embraced a gay couple during one of his trips to the United States, met and prayed with LGBT prisoners and the list goes on. Paraphrasing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said in an interview, “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?”
Without contradicting or challenging the Catholic Church’s doctrine, Pope Francis is simply beginning a conversation by saying it is okay to talk about typically fraught topics. This is what has made him increasingly likeable and relatable to especially young people. He acknowledges the change and controversy around the world and responds with compassion and love. If there is one message that the pope stands by, it would be that every human should be treated with dignity and respect.