This is a visually stunning, illumining project for those curious about Pope Francis and the evolution of the Vatican.
From National Geographic mainstays Dave Yoder and Robert Draper comes a project that captures the charismatic new papacy of Francis in its wide array. Drawing from Church history and the Argentinian pope’s background, the work provides insight into the actions of a pope who, in his devotion to the people, has changed the way the world regards Rome.
Pope Francis and the New Vatican is not a theological work, or a work of apologetics; rather, it seeks to meet Pope Francis where he is, as a religious man with a diverse background, whose commitments to pastoral care are shaking up a millennia-old institution. Drawing from interviews with those who’ve known Francis for decades, Draper dispenses with the idea of Francis as a doctrinal reformer, despite the hopes of some liberals; he approaches him instead as a radically committed kind of pope whose gentle values and focus on the poor have not always been associated with Vatican politics.
“What seems to rivet audiences,” Draper writes, “is the fact of the pope as a model of vulnerability.” Like the saint whose name he took, Francis communes with the poor, dispenses with lavish living, kisses the feet of the ill, and refocuses Church attention on those most in need. Yoder’s photos, which show Francis in locales that seem fortified against such vulnerability, create an awesome and complicated picture of this “new Vatican.”
So too do photographs from Francis’s youth play in neatly: the smiling and charismatic young man who shook up seminary life, the cardinal looking serious as he takes the train into work. Juxtaposed to photographs from his first months in Rome, which find him beaming and his crowds in various states of wonder, readers begin to develop a picture of what is progressive about this papacy. A return to the “sensitivity of the gospels” toward those at the periphery is evinced across the work.
For those still impervious to the unprecedented popularity of Pope Francis, Pope Francis and the New Vatican presents a compelling picture of who the man is, and why his leadership has moved so many across the world. This is a visually stunning, illumining project for those curious about Vatican evolutions.
Michelle Anne Schingler
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