Thumbs up for Pope Francis

You often hear from business experts and successful people that image is everything and attitude matters.
Pope Francis, the world’s 266th pontiff, may not lead a Fortune 500 company, but the former Buenos Aires prelate is in the business of building up the Catholic Church and spreading the Gospel message.
It’s estimated that roughly one in six people around the world have no religious affiliation. Yet somehow, people are paying attention to Pope Francis. He has been dubbed “the people’s pope,” and Time Magazine named him its person of the year.
Leaders say this faithful Jesuit pope carries the same message and adherence to church teaching as his predecessors, so why is he different? What has he done to make people stop and pay attention – to thrust the Catholic Church into a positive limelight?
The 77-year-old pope certainly has some eloquent analogies that can roll off his tongue in Spanish, Italian, Portuquese, French, German, Ukrainian or Latin. But prose alone won’t land you on the cover of a magazine.
By now we have probably seen hundreds of photos of the faithful leader kissing the heads of babies, reaching out to touch those who are sick and showing his humility by washing the feet of inmates or driving off in a Ford Focus.

Pope Francis waves from a Ford Focus car as he leaves a Marian prayer service near the Spanish Steps in Rome Dec. 8, 2013, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

While these are all meaningful, there’s something else the pope has been doing that I think perfectly depicts his simplicity, his efforts to reach out to everyone, his positive outlook and his showing that he is one of us and he is with us.
It’s the thumbs up.
If you look at Catholic News Service photos since the pope celebrated his inaugural Mass nearly a year ago, there are a minimum of a dozen pictures of the pope giving a thumbs up.
And it’s not just any thumbs up. It’s a wholehearted, all out gesture, accompanied by a broad smile and wide eyes. Sometimes – it’s even a double thumbs up.
He did it before his March 19, 2013 inaugural Mass.

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up as he makes his way around St. Peter’s Square before his Mass of inauguration March 19, 2013 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Marcin Mazur, Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales)

He did it after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass.

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up as he leaves St. Peter’s Square after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican March 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

He’s done it at his general audiences and he even did it as he met with patients, family and staff at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro in July.

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up as he meets with patients, family and staff at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro July 24, 2013. The pope addressed a group of recovering drug addicts offering them a message of compassion and hope as well as a call to self-determination. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He’s done it for young people in Italy and most recently at the Vatican Jan. 29.

Pope Francis gives two thumbs up as he leaves his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 12, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Pope Francis gives the thumbs up during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 29. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)
Image and attitude do matter – and when you’re humble and down-to-earth enough to offer an enthusiastic thumbs up time and time again, I think that positive outlook resonates with people. The gesture is simple, but in a world with school shootings, riots, wars, typhoons, etc., it’s a simple and genuine sign of hope.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.