During the 2013 papal election, the then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was sitting next to his good friend, Cardinal Claduio Hummes. When the new leader of the Catholic Church was announced, Cardinal Hummes hugged the still-stunned new Pope, telling him, “Don’t forget the poor!”
That was when it clicked for Lolo Kiko: the poor! “That is how the name came into my heart,” the new Bishop of Rome said in an address, “Francis of Assisi.”
Now that we know and love him as Pope Francis, we can’t help but notice how similar he is to his saintly namesake! Let’s count the ways these two great men are alike.
#1: They Changed Their Names
The Santo Papa and the saint both became famous under a new name. They had different names at birth: Pope Francis was Jorge Mario until he was elected pope, while St. Francis was baptized Giovanni (John) before his father changed his name.
#2: They Suffered a Grave Illness
Both of them fell seriously ill at 21 years old. St. Francis was sick during a year of imprisonment following the defeat of Assisi in the conflict against Perugia. Pope Francis, on the other hand, suffered an acute respiratory infection and had to undergo a procedure for the removal of a portion of his right lung.
#3: They Experienced a Decisive Encounter
A single encounter transformed the lives of both men. St. Francis of Assisi heard the voice of the Crucified Christ at the Church of San Damiano. The voice asked him to rebuild His “house in disrepair,” referring to the Church. For Pope Francis, it was during confession at the St. Jose de Flores Church that he heard God’s call and decided to become a priest. (Read: Pope Francis Before He Became a Priest)
#4: They Shun Luxury
The renunciation of clothes and luxury unites them. St. Francis publicly divested himself of his riches and wore a monk’s habit, while Pope Francis wears a simple crucifix and ring, and doesn’t don they typical elaborate garb of popes. (Read: The Hidden Meaning Behind the Pope’s Accessories)
#5:They Share a Love for Creation
St. Francis is famous for his love of animals. For the Pope, meanwhile, it is essential to respect the Earth, our home, without forgetting the love for human beings.
#6: They Are Devoted to Mama Mary
A marked devotion to Our Lady joins them. St. Francis nurtured an ardent veneration for the Blessed Virgin—the fruit of prayer and meditation on the deep mystery of Our Lady and her role in the history of salvation. Pope Francis points to the Virgin as the guiding light for true Christians. (Read: Four fun facts that prove Pope Francis’ love for Mama Mary)
#7: They Believe in Mercy
“Experiencing mercy” was the root of the saint’s lifestyle change. And it is a keyword in the papacy of Pope Francis, who has dedicated the extraordinary Jubilee to mercy.
#8: They Love Outcasts
Both men’s teachings (and presence) address the physical and spiritual aspects of outcasts. The poor, the marginalized, and the lepers were close to the heart and ministry of St. Francis, while Pope Francis looks out for those with addictions, and anyone who is sick in body and soul. (Read: Here’s Why Lolo Kiko Wants You to Help the Poor Amid the Pandemic)
#9: They Advocate Peace
They both met with Islamic leaders in the quest for peace. St. Francis met the Sultan of Egypt and Syria at Malik al-Kamil during the fifth crusade. Pope Francis, meanwhile, met the Palestine leader Abu Mazen in Jerusalem, and with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Vatican Gardens.
#10: They Say “No” to Corruption
In spite of the eight centuries between them, St. Francis and Pope Francis have placed the fight against corruption and the misuse of power and money at the top of their concerns– starting with the Catholic Church!