'Pope John Paul is heavy metal, Benedict is classical, Francis is....'

Posted at 03/13/14 6:40 PM

...folk,' says papal biographer

A woman dressed as a character from the nativity scene puts a lamb around the neck of Pope Francis as he arrives to visit the Church of St. Alfonso Maria dei Liguori in the outskirts of RomePhoto by Osservatore Romano, Reuters

MANILA -- Pope Francis will most likely be remembered by the people as a "pope of mercy," according to a papal biographer.

Speaking to "Mornings @ ANC" on Thursday, John Allen Jr., also a CNN correspondent to the Vatican, said if there's one teaching Pope Francis would like the Catholics to remember the most, it would be "mercy."

"I think his most important spiritual message to the women and men of this time is mercy. Mercy is in his motto. Mercy was in his first homily as pope. It's the cornerstone of his thinking that he wants the world to hear from the Church not in the first instance judgment, but he wants them to hear compassion and tolerance -- the Christian word for which is mercy," Allen said.

Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, is celebrating today his first anniversary in the papacy. He was elected Pope on March 13 last year following the resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict.

He chose to take the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who is known as a man of humility and simplicity.

True enough, Pope Francis, in his one year as pontiff, has become known for his humble ways and has been dubbed as the "pope of the poor" and the "people's pope."

Pope Francis has won the admiration of Catholics all over the world with his simple yet compassionate and powerful gestures such as refusing to judge gay people, washing the feet of Muslim prisoners, and reaching out to atheists.

"[He] is premised on the idea that when the world looks at the Catholic church, what they will see is a community of mercy," Allen said.

'An ordinary man of the people'

Allen, who has been covering the Vatican for 20 years now, noted that Pope Francis is "very different" in terms of style and personality compared to Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

If he were to describe the three popes in terms of music genres, he said Pope John Paul II would be "heavy metal," Pope Benedict XVI "classical," while Pope Francis would be "folk."

"[Pope Francis] is equally popular but a softer, gentler kind of sound and feel," he explained.

He said Pope Francis has come off as the "classic ordinary guy" and has shown himself as just "like one of the fellas," patiently waiting in line to get his cup of coffee and hopping on a bus instead of getting on a limousine.

"But let's be clear. He understands himself to be an ordinary man of the people. But that doesn't mean he is any less willing to exercise his papal authority than any of the previous popes," he said.

Allen said with only a year since he was elected as pontiff, Francis has already "moved far and fast" in initiating structural reforms in the Catholic Church.

"He is not afraid to pull the trigger," Allen said. "But at the end of the day, he wants to do it as a man of the people as opposed to being a kind of autocrat."

He also noted that since the term of the "friendly" Pope Francis started, meeting with the press has now become a routine of the papal ministry.

Sex and money

According to Allen, the two most controversial issues that has continuously hounded the Catholic Church are sex and money.

While Pope Francis may have taken a gentler approach to sensitive and divisive issues such as homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion, Allen said the pontiff's biggest challenges still lie ahead of him.

He said the Vatican will have to show it will not tolerate sexual abuse allegedly committed by priests and concealed by bishops as it continues to lead a community of around 1.2 billion Catholics.

Pope Francis will also have to continue making financial reforms to address allegations of corruption in Vatican's bank, he said.

Allen said, "He has the right intentions. Is he going to be able to pull it off?"