Pope Francis kisses a disfigured man – and shows politicians the lost virtue of humility

By Jonathan Jones, Guardian

 

We live in a world of image-conscious leaders, hair primped, faces artfully powdered, photo opportunities carefully devised. The art of image is generally assumed to be both modern and false: the term spin doctor was unknown in Britain before Tony Blair’s team made it part of the language. Yet for all the sophistication of modern political style, Pope Francis is showing by his superior example how tired, unconvincing and alienating such methods have become.

 

Francis has renovated a damaged brand not in years, but months. He has turned the image of the papacy and by extension the Catholic church upside down in less than a year. His papacy already seems destined to be remembered as special – and yet this communicational triumph has not been achieved through carefully constructed PR techniques. It is not spin. Its methods are medieval and its magic is simple.

 

This week’s images of the pope kissing and praying with a man severely disfigured by illness are truly gothic. I do not say that intending to belittle or caricature the condition, apparently neurofibromatosis, from which this man who attended the pope’s general audience in the Vatican is suffering. What is gothic is the return to 13th-century values in this picture of a Christian leader showing humility and charity by physically interacting with someone visibly sick and visually different from those around him. St Francis of Assisi, whose name Pope Francis has adopted, was a master of simple, powerful popular gestures: he invented the Christmas crib and reputedly preached a sermon to the birds.

 

Read here

 

Read also:  The Francis Effect from Cranmer

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