Pope Francis took a shot at his own popularity Wednesday, saying the tendency "to paint the Pope as some sort of Superman, a star, is offensive."
In a wide-ranging interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the Pope knocked down "Francis-mania" and addressed more serious issues facing the Catholic Church, including the child-abuse scandal and women's place in the clergy.
The plain-spoken pontiff has proved wildly popular since ascending to the papacy nearly a year ago, taking selfies with young Catholics, being named TIME’s Person of the Year and earning raves for his relaxed views on social issues.
But Francis rejects "ideological interpretations, a certain myth behind Pope Francis."
“I like being among people, with those who suffer, to go to parishes," he said. “When, for instance, some say I go out at night to feed the homeless in Via Ottaviano. It never crossed my mind.
“To paint the Pope as some sort of Superman, a star, is offensive," Francis continued. “The Pope is a man who laughs cries, sleeps calmly and has friends as everyone else. A normal person.”
Francis will celebrate his one-year anniversary on March 13 as elected leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, a role he assumed after Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly retired.
In the Corriere della Sera interview, Francis touched on several topics.
• On whether he was upset at being called a Marxist: “Not at all, I never embraced the Marxist ideology, because it wasn’t true. But I met many good people who professed Marxism.”
• On women's role in the church: "Women must have a greater presence in the decision-making areas of the church. But I would call this a 'functional' promotion. That won't take us very far."
• On scandals involving the church: “Abuse cases are terrible because they leave deep scars. Benedict XVI was very brave and paved the way forward. … The Catholic Church is possibly the only public institution that acted with transparency and responsibility. Nobody else did more. Still, the Catholic Church was the only one to come under fire.”
• On choosing to retire as Pope Emeritus Benedict had done instead of dying in office: “Benedict is the first, and maybe there will be others. We don’t know.”
• On civil unions: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate cohabitations, mainly to resolve issues involving their finances, such as health assistance. We need to look at different cases and evaluate them.”
ALESSANDRO BIANCHI / Reuters, file
A priest and a nun walk by a large drawing of Pope Francis depicting him as a superhero on a wall near the Vatican January 29, 2014. The Argentinian Pope is shown taking off into air with his right fist clenched in a classic Superman style.
First published March 5 2014, 6:04 AM