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This photograph is Pope Francis’s real first ‘encyclical’

The Pope’s embracing of a disfigured man in Rome encapsulates the example he wishes to set for the world

By on Thursday, 7 November 2013

Pope Francis with Vinicio Riva

Pope Francis with Vinicio Riva

The widely circulated photo of Pope Francis embracing and kissing a man with a disfigured face may be considered the Pontiff’s real first encyclical; an encyclical in the sense that the “message” of the Holy Father has been sent to all the bishops and their flocks (and in this case beyond). In this image we get a summing up of the tone which Francis wishes to set for the world Church. His Holiness wants the word “Pastor” to come to mind when the Catholics thinks of the office of Pope.

Fear not that the Chair of Peter is becoming common or familiar. The Holy Father sees the world as his parish rather than a realm or classroom. Francis iterates this by ease with which he communicates with his audiences. The wishing of a “good lunch” after the Sunday’s Angelus or when we were asked to pray for an ill child he had visited earlier. This view of a world parish has been taken because Francis thinks we need to view ourselves as parishioners. The Holy Father wants to guide a group of solid praying people who are strong in faith and conviction rather than militant moralists.

This is not mere outreach for the sake of sentiment; it is Francis showing us the fruit of faith in a way that is tangible and imitable. His way of showing is straightforward and demonstrates to us how easy it is for parishes to be pockets of this marvelous work of illuminating faith around our dark needy world.

I said on the night of his election that he would lead exactly as he did in Buenos Aires. He has proved me right but more importantly brought with him that wonderful sense of a strong, active and praying parish with him.