The Year of Pope Francis

Published 13 March 2014  |  
Pope Francis is greeted by faithful as he is driven through the crowd in St Peter's Square during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, November 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Today marks the first anniversary of Pope Francis' papacy and it's been an incredible year for the Catholic Church, during which religious and secular people alike seem to have fallen under the 'Francis effect', and just can't get enough.

To help celebrate the occasion, we've looked back over the past 12 months and put together just a few Pope highlights.

His inauguration

Francis' inauguration Mass in March last year set the tone for the rest of his papacy.  He spoke of the Christian calling to be close to "the poorest, the weakest, the least important...the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, those in prison", and has continued with this mantra, repeatedly calling for a "poor church for the poor".

From driving a second-hand Renault rather than the traditional Popemobile, to selling his Harley Davidson for a record sum and giving the money to charity, not to mention rumours of leaving the Vatican at night to minister to the homeless, the Pope has been determined to demonstrate humility and stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable members of society.

That Selfie

The first papal selfie to ever be taken made headlines all over the world, as a group of teenagers managed to snap a quick picture with Pope Francis during a pilgrimage to Rome. Though it didn't make his official Twitter profile picture, his cheeky smile and willingness to be a bit silly made the Pope all the more endearing.

The Evangelli Gaudium

Pope Francis issued his first Apostolic Exhortation in November, entitled 'Evangelii Gaudium', meaning the Joy of the Gospel. The 223-page document might seem a bit of a mindbender, but it is rich with Pope Francis' trademark enthusiasm and is a heartfelt appeal to encourage Catholics to renew their "personal encounter with Jesus Christ".

He also reaffirms his commitment to giving the Church an outward looking focus, declaring: "I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

Pope Francis as a work of graffiti art by someone identifying themselves as Maupal

A culture shift

While he is clear that Church doctrine remains unchanged, Pope Francis has insisted on a shift in emphasis from the usual hardline issues, believing that it is more important to focus on the needs of the poor rather than get caught up in complex theological issues. "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context," he said in an interview in August.

He's unabashedly human

Despite graffiti in Rome depicting him as a superhero, the Pope remains endearingly human. His hat recently flew off mid-address and the doves he released symbolically out of a window in the Apostolic Palace were quickly attacked by a rogue seagull. He even accidently uttered a swear word during a speech earlier this month, which is a mistake we're not used to the head of the Catholic Church making.

In his own words, "The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps well and has friends like everyone else — a normal person."

His first anniversary

With predictable humility, the Pope marked his first anniversary at the helm of the Catholic Church with a tweet revealing his vulnerability, and echoing the plea he made when he first took up the daungting role a year ago. 

In no fewer than nine languages, the Pope tweeted his 12 million followers: "Please pray for me."

And it won't be fireworks or a noisy bash to mark his first anniversary.  Instead, the Pope is spending the day in quiet reflection at a spiritual retreat in the Castelli Romani.

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