This week, even in the secular news media, Americans will be seeing plenty of coverage of Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States. This is not just his first visit to the U.S. as pope, but his first visit ever.
Pope Francis will have a busy schedule—meeting with the president, addressing Congress (another historic first) and the United Nations, and then on to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. And again, the news will be all over it.
Which begs the question: why is Pope Francis so popular, even among those who regard themselves as non-religious?
As a Catholic, I am often amused at how the general public (thanks again to secular media) gets it wrong when it comes to Pope Francis. Many will describe him as a revolutionary, bringing waves of change to the Church and its “outdated” positions on multiple issues. He is often, unfortunately, praised at the expense of his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (whose contributions to the Church and the world go far beyond his eight years as pope).
There is no doubt that Pope Francis has a style and approach that is different from Pope Benedict. However the Message we hear Pope Francis share each and every day, not just in his words, but in his actions, is no different than the Message preached by his predecessors. When it comes to Church teaching on world-impacting issues, as well as how each of us should live out our daily lives, the core of that teaching will never change. EVER. Do you know why?
Because the Message does not belong to the Pope to change. The Pope, as is the Church he leads, is just the messenger. The Message, of course, was given to us by the Founder of the Church, Jesus Christ.
Which brings us back to the question at hand: if the Message has not changed, indeed the messenger clearly has. Pope Francis is a clear example of the power of a great messenger.
That’s saying a lot, given his popularity in American pop culture—and the fact that he barely speaks any English!
Think about that for a moment. As business professionals, what lesson might we take from this?
Often, when a business is looking at growth strategies and/or rebranding issues, their leaders will often consider changing or updating their message. And often, that is worth considering. But quite often, the problem may not be with the message—but with the messenger.
Here’s how Pope Francis is a great messenger:
He is always preaching the Gospel, and only uses words when necessary.
He is congruent.
He doesn’t share the Message: he lives it.
Just before Easter this year I ran a piece called “What’s Your Gospel?” There I did focus on the importance of your message—because if you don’t have it down, simplified, and—dare I say—written on your heart, you won’t be much of a messenger.
You won’t live it.
You won’t feel it.
You won’t breathe it.
And you certainly won’t believe it.
And neither will your prospects.
If you want to become a better speaker, join Toastmasters. If you want to become better messenger, look at Pope Francis…up close—regardless of your faith background.
But if you do, be warned: you may learn far less about the man once called Jorge Mario Bergolglio…and far more about the One who lives through him.