ROME -- "Welcome, this is a house for all. Your house."
Pope Francis is revolutionizing how the Vatican operates, encouraging officials to remain faithful to what they have dedicated their lives to, and to the global Catholic community. If the pope is no more than a king in his church, then there shall be no room for princes.
Mary Deeley looks me in the eye and laughs as she tells me the three men who top the invite list for her daughter's wedding. Sitting with her arms outstretched in a chair at Northwestern University's Sheil Catholic Center, Mary continues our conversation in a speedy and reverent tone.
Let's begin on what Pope Francis has done just last year as we are now in this brand new year of 2014. He ditched the Papal limousine, and instead is driven around in a regular car. He refused the traditional gold Papal cross, yet instead chooses a simple silver one. And there is more.
I sat down to discuss a wide range of topics with the idol of my high school days, Noam Chomsky, in early October. This was before the release of Evangelii Gaudium, but after a lot of encouraging words about economic justice from Pope Francis.
The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, has been a ray of sunshine since his elevation in March. His charm, humility and generosity, and his respect even for gays and atheists, have made him far more appealing than the authoritarian medievalist he replaced.
We are all waiting to see how the new pope, who opposed liberation theology and yet champions the poor and oppressed so vigorously, will speak on political issues when faced with them.
That was Argentina in the late 1970s. While the scale may differ substantially, is this not also a description of the United States since 9/11?
The new pope can do small, seemingly trivial things that can have a huge symbolic effect and show people that, while he may not be able to fix everything that is wrong and unjust within the Church, he "gets it."
Most of us don't choose our names. Unless you're P.Diddy, then you get a new one every two years when you re-up your cellphone contract. The names choose us, or are chosen for us.
When my 14-year-old, who is not Catholic, asked me whether I "liked the new guy," I told her I didn't l know yet, but that it was unlikely that any guy I liked would ever get that job.
For on this Rock He built his Church To stand against upheaval A fortress safe upon its perch For Rocks can see no evil.
When the new pope supports the freedom and equality of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and when he shows the world that he has the courage to expose and prosecute every child-raping priest in the Catholic Church, I'll have some respect for him.
Nothing is "more important" than refocusing the Church's ministry on global poverty and, at the same time, changing the Church's overt style and deep-seated culture from one that glorifies the rituals and realities of power to a style of humility and culture of service.
As an environmental leader and as a Catholic Latina mother, I hope Pope Francis will be a voice against climate change, deadly pollution, and the destruction of natural resources that threaten our planet and the lives of the poor most severely.
The simple details of his apartment, his use of mass transit, his visits to wash the feet of AIDS patients, his passion for the poor, cooking his own food, all tell us that this man is about lifestyle Christianity more than perpetual doctrinal food fights.