The pope's director of communications has told Christian Today that Francis's legacy five years after being elected is one of spreading love and forgiveness throughout the world, to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, saying the pope 'has done an extraordinary job getting that message out'.
Greg Burke, the director of the Holy See Press Office who is himself credited with sharpening the Vatican's public relations, told Christian Today ahead of the fifth anniversary of the pope's election: 'Once and again over the past five years, Francis has hammered away with two main points: God loves you, and God forgives you.'
Burke, who was a Rome-based journalist before a meteoric rise at the Vatican communications office from 2012, added: 'The title of the document that best lays out the plans for this pontificate was not chosen by chance. It's called The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Gaudium, 2013]. Francis wants to share that joy with everyone.'
In comments emailed exclusively to Christian Today, Burke stressed that Pope Francis was appealing to all people, not just Catholics.
He said: 'The pope has seen from personal experience that – Catholic or not – if you read the Gospel and you try to follow Christ closely, you are going to have a deep, interior joy.
'That's not to pretend there is no sin and suffering. There's a lot of it. That's why the pontiff is condemning human trafficking and arms merchants and all the other businesses that deal in death and the destruction of human dignity. The pope talks about the devil all the time. That's a recognition that sin exists, that all of us are tempted, and all of us fall.
'And yet, despite all our faults and all our sins, God loves us and God forgives us. God is always the merciful father of the prodigal son. He is simply waiting for us to return home, where we are always welcome. Pope Francis, through his words but above all through his example, has done an extraordinary job getting that message out: God loves us; God forgives us; let's shower that love and mercy on others.'
Burke, 58, was the Rome correspondent for Fox News and wrote for Time Magazine before becoming a senior communications adviser with the Secretariat of State in June 2012.
A devout Catholic and member of Opus Dei who was raised in St Louis, Missouri, Burke went on to become a vice director of the Holy See Press Office on February 1, 2016, and was promoted to director of that office on July 11, 2016.
Francis was elected pope on March 13, 2013.