Power Of Symbols · Uncategorized

Pope Francis and the Power of a Gesture

In the image “seen round the world”—in today’s parlance, “gone viral”– Pope Francis has commanded a brief moment from our hyperkinetic attention spans. But I suspect that “moment” will last a long time.

You’ve seen it, haven’t you? The photo of the Pope holding and kissing the head of a man ravaged by an incurable disease.

Pope Francis touches a deformed man.
Pope Francis touches a sick man after a general audience on 11/6/13 (Huff Post 11/6/13)

I remember another image of another Pope, John Paul II, at a meeting with then Polish Leader General Jaruzelski.

Jaruzelski was reading a prepared message while the Pope stood a few feet away, head slightly lowered, hands folded, listening intently.  The camera panned downward, and the narrator had to make sure we noticed.  The Polish leader’s knees were shaking.

As well they should have.

We would discover later they were shaking for good reason.  We often look at the political implications, because that Pope is widely credited with helping to end Communism in his beloved Poland and many other countries.  But I also wonder if the Polish leader wasn’t also quaking at the presence of God.

As well he should have.

Now, decades later, Pope Francis was the presence of God for another man.  But there was no quaking, no distance in this gesture, this kiss.

One man brought the presence of God to a leader, shaking political institutions and changing the world.  Another brought the presence of God to a diseased man, changing his world, and ours.

No matter your religious persuasion, that’s the power of a gesture.

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3 thoughts on “Pope Francis and the Power of a Gesture

  1. Dear Lora, Thank you – I went to Poland for about a month with my father in 1978. He wanted to bear witness, as a history teacher. This was a tour with the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He died in 1983.

    My mother’s “last” years were when Pope John Paul II was also older. I think she was encouraged by him. It was hard for her to feel “useful,” and we spoke of ministering to others simply being who we are – who we have become. As you know, she helped support the two books we published together with others.

    My parents were Lutherans and one of my mother’s uncles fell in love with a woman who was Catholic. Things were different back then, and I really can’t speak to now. My mother understood, and they loved her too. How I miss her big heart. Other relatives are Catholic too – and Lutheran, and other branches of the church. And some are searching – and we all get along and have interesting family parties!

    Your post and the “power of a gesture” also recalls Princess Diana.

    Take care, Ellen

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