In the immediate aftermath of the whirlwind 2013 papal transition, everyone was comparing Pope Francis to Pope Benedict, pointing out the many differences and similarities between them. Naturally, nearly all of this commentary was coming from indirect sources, that is, from people who knew neither Francis nor Benedict personally. For this reason we were very happy to secure an interview with Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Vatican’s spokesman under both pontiffs. If anyone understands the vicissitudes of the past twenty months, it is he. It was important therefore, to ask him very particular questions, like how Francis’ methods of communication are different from Benedict’s and what it’s like working for a spontaneous Pope (check out Francis going to confession). It’s clear from the interview that Fr. Lombardi is in the same boat as many of us: surprised and also deeply inspired by what he sees the new Pope doing on a daily basis. In other words, despite the great challenges of working for a spontaneous Pope (including what many perceive to be frequent misinterpretations of the Pope’s words by the media), the fact that Francis so naturally communicates the heart of the Gospel is enough to energize and sustain him. He’s not alone.Excerpt from March 24, 2014 interview with Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Director of the Holy See Press Office. To watch the full interview, purchase The Francis Effect DVD box set.
Gomes: How would you measure the success of the “Francis effect?” Fr. Lombardi: For me, it is very clear that the most important point is to understand the center of the message of the gospel. And Francis says this and he repeats it continuously, "God loves us. God demonstrates to us his mercy, his love through Jesus Christ and through the gospel." And so, this very clear accent about the love of God, the mercy of God, is something that the people have understood very well. And this has changed their perspective about the church. The church is not a church of 'no,' or a church of power, but it is a church of 'yes' for the well-being of souls, for everyone in the church of salvation. It is the church of service. This change of perspective, in the minds of many, many people, faithful and also not faithful, is the most important aspect of this pontificate so far and I can say also a big spiritual success.The Francis Effect DVD box set is now available for online and from the Salt and Light store. The 3-disc set includes the feature documentary, official trailers and over 6 hours of extended interviews.