80 Reasons to Love Pope Francis

December 13, 2016 — Pope Francis turns 80 on Dec. 17, and as he blows out his candles, the Society of Jesus is celebrating the many contributions he’s made to the world.

“I ask you to pray for me. Don’t forget!” It’s a phrase Pope Francis has repeated untold times as he’s traveled the globe in the nearly four years since his election.

So, what to give the newly minted octogenarian? How about the very thing he always asks for: prayers and lots of them.

Here are 80 things the Jesuits love about Pope Francis.

1. As the first Jesuit pope, Francis was trained in a faith that does justice and a spirituality that seeks to find God in all things.

2. When Pope Francis first stepped out on the balcony after his election, his first words were a humble “Buona sera” (“Good evening”).

3. He rode the bus home with the cardinals after being elected instead of hopping in the papal limousine.

4. Then he stopped by his hotel to pick up his suitcase and pay his own bill.

5. For his new digs, he chose the Vatican guesthouse instead of the papal apartments.

6. Rolling Stone thinks he’s a rock star.

7. Esquire named him the "Best Dressed Man" of 2013.

8. But he just calls himself “a sinner.”

9. He isn’t afraid to extend his ministry into the digital world and referred to the internet as "a gift from God."

10. He’s the first pope to have an Instagram account, reaching one million followers in just 12 hours.

11. He shares his message with 31 million followers on Twitter at @Pontifex and his accounts in 8 other languages.

12. And he appreciates a good selfie.

(L'Osservatore Romano)

13. He doesn’t mind when kids interrupt his speeches to hang out.

(L'Osservatore Romano)

14. In his children’s book, “Dear Pope Francis,” the pope was asked, “If you could do one miracle, what would it be?” His answer: “I would heal children.”

15. He could not be cuter with babies.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

16. “Hello, it’s Pope Francis.” He enjoys cold-calling strangers who write to him.

17. He picked up the phone to cancel his newspaper subscription.

18. He called to comfort a woman who was raped.

19. He visited a L'Arche community for mentally disabled.

20. He invited 1,500 homeless people to the Vatican for pizza.

21. Spoke to each baby during a visit to a neonatal unit.

(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

22. He goes where others are reluctant to minister and embraced a man with a disfiguring disease.

23. Reportedly snuck out of the Vatican to minister to homeless people at night.

24. Enjoys a 90% popularity rating with Catholics.

25. Took kids for a spin in the popemobile.

26. Opened the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel to homeless people for a private tour.

27. Personally invited a group of homeless men to celebrate his 77th birthday.

28. Granted sainthood to one of his favorite Jesuits, Peter Faber, saying Faber was “capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”

29. Marked his 78th birthday by gifting 400 sleeping bags to those in need in Rome.

30. Spent his 79th birthday with young Catholics who work to welcome migrants.

31. He visited Lesbos and brought three Syrian refugee families back to the Vatican.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

32. Built a new homeless shelter near the Vatican.

33. He’s not afraid to break protocol, like the time he invited African refugees on stage with him at a general audience.

34. He urged mobsters to pray for forgiveness and "repent."

35. He famously asked: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

36. Reaching out to Muslims, he called for mutual respect between the two religions.

37. He celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border.

38. Asked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to bless him and “the Church of Rome.”

39. Broke with tradition and washed women's feet on Holy Thursday.

(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

40. Instead of dining with Congress, had a meal with homeless people while visiting D.C.

41. Played a significant role in the historic US-Cuba breakthrough.

42. Makes a mean paella and "dulce de leche" dessert.

43. He told bishops to show compassion for broken marriages.

44. And called on church officials to live modestly.

45. Instead of giving Vatican employees bonuses, he donated the funds to the poor.

46. In December 2015, he declared the Year of Mercy.

47. He ordered an audit of the Vatican.

48. Says the church should be like a "field hospital."

49. Met with a former student, who is gay, and his longtime partner during his visit to the U.S.

50. If Martians show up, he’d baptize them if they asked.

51. Put poor and homeless people in the VIP seats at a charity concert.

52. He canonized José de Anchieta, SJ, the “Apostle of Brazil.”

53. Made two popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, saints in the same ceremony.

54. Chose to be called Francis after “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,” St. Francis of Assisi.  

55. He even celebrated a world day of prayer for the care of creation.

56. Championed the environment by writing his environmental encyclical Laudato Si'.

57. Loves animals and not afraid to “smell the sheep.”

(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters) 

58. He rode the eco-friendly tram at World Youth Day in Poland.

59. He embraced modesty, from his used car to his simple black shoes.

60. He’s made a Fiat his vehicle of choice, instead of the popemobile.

61. He needs prayers and isn’t afraid to ask for them.

62. Met the family who drove 13,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Philadelphia to see him.

63. Enjoys a good time, even wearing a clown nose with a newlywed couple.

64. He’s a fan of snail mail and sent a letter to a Jesuit prison ministry.

65. He’s sent letters to prisoners who are serving life sentences without parole for crimes they committed as minors.

66. He made surprise visits to a Rome hospital and hospice.

67. He was once a bouncer at a nightclub in Buenos Aires.

68. He auctioned his Harley Davidson for charity.

69. He loves the tango.

70. He has one lung, but it does the job of two.

71. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he gave up his chauffeured limousine and took the bus to work instead.

72. As pope, he still enjoys a good bus ride on the way to his Lenten retreat.

(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters) 

73. He loves the Argentinian soccer club San Lorenzo de Almagro.

(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters) 

74. He wishes he could waltz into a pizza shop and order up a pie.

75. Popes, they’re just like us: he made a surprise visit to his optician to try on glasses.

76. Inspired the "Francis Effect," with Catholics praying more.

77. And the pope’s not just for Catholics anymore; he’s a favorite of many other faiths as well.

78. Is a pope of many “firsts,” including the first pope from the Americas.

79. He became the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress.

80. He loves us just as much as we love him.

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