What’s it like to be a Pope? A day in the life of Francis

for The Brooklyn Paper
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You need the stamina of a workhorse, the patience of Job, and the endurance of an Alvin Ailey dancer to be the Servant of the servants of God — at least judging from the diverse and demanding duties of a Pope.

The pontiff — variously known as Papa, Holy Father, Supreme Pastor, and The Rock — is the religious successor of St. Peter entrusted with leading followers of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church on a global path to goodness. No small task.

The Pope is the ambassador elected to spread Jesus Christ’s love and concern for all living beings. His priority is connecting with people, understanding their lives, listening to their concerns and interests, and sharing in their strife and joys:

• He writes and gives sermons and speeches.

• He conducts liturgies.

• He appoints bishops.

• He travels the world to spread a message of hope, compassion, faith and understanding.

As head of the Vatican, the Pope is also a political figure, meeting daily with officials of the sovereign city-state to develop the Church’s diplomatic ties with more than 100 countries. In addition he works to build bridges with leaders of other Christian denominations and leaders of Sister Churches.

The life of Francis

The sun is still fast asleep when Pope Francis arises every morning at 4:45 am in a simply furnished room at St. Martha’s House, adorned with a crucifix, a statue of St. Joseph, an icon of St. Francis, and an image of Our Lady of Luján — the Argentinian patron saint.

The Vatican guesthouse located behind a gas station next to St. Peter’s Basilica is where the monk-like priest — who has said, “How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor” — chooses to live and eat, instead of at the opulent, 1,000-room Apostolic Palace, the official papal residence boasting the Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s Rooms.

The next 16 hours are fast-paced, and Francis completes what some of us would consider a half-day’s work well before breakfast.

• He prays and meditates for several hours before leading a morning Mass at the residence for staffers.

• Ofttimes they are improvised services, where Vatican bankers rub shoulders with garbage collectors and their respective families.

• After the Mass, Francis walks silently to the back pews of the chapel to kneel and pray with the people, while everyone else remains seated.

• Then he stands up and walks outside to greet the attendees, one by one.

The handshaking is a constant throughout the day, as Francis plays host to a delegation of foreign bishops, greets a faith-based group, or hosts official visitors.

The new Pope is an independent soul. He manages his own agenda, sometimes extending scheduled visits. He is known to directly telephone people whose letters have touched and inspired him. On Sundays he calls friends in his native Argentina, including prisoners he still keeps in contact with.

Francis returns straight to work after lunch in St. Martha’s cafeteria — where he eats all his meals — to appoint a bishop, speak with a Holy See official or edit a speech before retiring to bed at 10 pm, after prayers.

Updated 10:56 am, September 24, 2015
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