Having just been voted Time's Person of the Year, Pope Francis is quickly becoming a papal superstar, bridging gaps between hardcore conservative Catholics, socially progressive Catholics and even people outside the church entirely. He's painted himself as a guy who, while secure in his faith and its teachings, would really just like everyone to get along for the betterment of the world. In fact, he's the best friend we all need -- someone who mediates within your group of friends and helps keep everyone grounded and enlightened.
And here are nine reasons you'd love to be buddies with him.
1. He drops some serious knowledge and forces you to reflect.
Sometimes ignorance is blindness, not bliss. Pope Francis has been very critical of extreme concentrations of wealth, income inequality, and what he refers to as the "widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs." On World Environment Day, Francis said "men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption." Pope Francis has railed against bowing down to capitalism as an idol and decried the "every man for himself" mentality.
"Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life," said the Pontiff in an 84-page mission statement. "Today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills."
Sure, you and your friends have always dreamed about being fabulously wealthy, but maybe that's not what matters most:
2. He cares about you, even if you've fallen on tough times.
Pope Francis has been consistently raising concerns about hunger and food insecurity in the world. According to the UN food agency, one third of what is produced for human consumption is lost or wasted every year, and the pope has likened that to actually "stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry."
3. He understands the importance of a hug and doesn't care about what you look like.
Pope Francis made an incredible impression on the world this summer when he was photographed hugging and kissing a man who'd been disfigured by disease. While many religious leaders have worked closely with the sick, the Pope has historically been perceived as a distant public figure, riding in cars surrounded by bullet proof glass and speaking from high balconies. Francis has become more of a man of the people, not only embracing them rhetorically, but literally too.
4. He's upfront and honest, and will always make sure to pay you back.
Pope Francis has pushed for more transparency with the Vatican Bank -- or the Institute of Works of Religion as it's formally known -- whose secrecy has generated accusations of everything from financing terrorism to money laundering. Aside from authoring papal documents pushing for stricter supervision of the Vatican's financial dealings, this summer he created two commissions, managed by one of his personal secretaries, to further scrutinize the process.
5. He's a tough guy, but isn't afraid to show his sensitive side.
Pope Francis has displayed his faith in some of the world's poorest slums, quite literally practicing what he preaches. And if you still question his toughness, the man was once a nightclub bouncer in his native Argentina, so you know he can handle himself. But his heart hasn't been hardened by his experiences. When discussing the issue of impoverished migrants, Pope Francis said we have "forgotten how to cry" for less fortunate refugees and immigrants. "We have become used to other people's suffering, it doesn't concern us, it doesn't interest us."
The Pope greets children in Varginha, one of Rio de Janeiro's shantytowns. Again, hugs all around.
6. He doesn't want gifts for Christmas or his birthday, he just wants to hang out.
Pope Francis has been very vocal in criticizing humanity's obsession with money and worldly possessions. "I've never seen a moving truck following behind a funeral procession," Francis said at a mass back in June, joking with the audience about the old adage, "you can't take it with you." He says that people should instead seek out "love, charity, service, patience, goodness and tenderness."
7. It's never about him, it's about everyone else.
In May, before 200,000 people, Pope Francis discussed the lack of attention humanity pays to the world's less fortunate. "If investments in banks fall, it is a tragedy ... but if people die of hunger, have nothing to eat or suffer from poor health, that's nothing."
The Pope seems unconcerned with maintaining a shiny image, especially if it means ignoring entire sections of our society. "I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty, because it has been out on the streets," he said, "rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."
8. Just when you think you know him, he surprises you with a secret that makes you appreciate him even more.
It was revealed quite recently that Pope Francis may be going out at night in regular priest clothes to help the homeless. Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, also called the "Almoner of His Holiness," hinted to reporters that when he tells the pontiff he's going out in the city at night to minister to the homeless, "there's the constant risk that he will come with me." One of the most powerful and well-known men in the world venturing out into the night, disguised, to do good? That's pretty awesome.
9. He may not agree with everything you do, but that doesn't change the way he feels about you.
Pope Francis raised some eyebrows this summer when, during a flight from Rio to Rome, he made perhaps the most gay-friendly comments ever made by a pope. The comments were far from an endorsement of homosexuality, but Francis did recognize members of the gay community as human beings who deserve our respect.
"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" He said. Citing church Catechism, Francis added, "Gays should not be marginalized."