Not Superman, says Pope

Just days after I posted about the idolization of Pope Francis, Francis himself has stated:

“To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person.” (source)

He recognizes the mythological status he’s starting to pick up, and he doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want to be on the pedestal upon which popes used to put themselves.

Pope Superman Mural
Recent graffiti left on a wall near the Vatican. (source)

To ignore Francis’s human qualities undermines what he is doing. Superman has long been revered as a great hero. Why not? He’s accomplished great things. But Superman can do those things simply because he is Superman. He doesn’t have to work at it like the rest of us. He saves the world in roughly the same time it takes me to make breakfast.

No one will honor me as Breakfast Girl, Slayer of Bacon.

If saving the world is that simple, does that even a make him a hero? Sure, Superman could use his phenomenal powers for evil, but is simply being not evil cause for adoration?

Which returns us to my previous post highlighting the tendency to depict the papacy as all that is evil and Francis as its polar opposite. Neither is true.

Francis has repeatedly put himself forth as a pope of the people, neither above nor below them. He tells of a time he worked as a bouncer, and how when he celebrated his first Mass as pope

“Was I anxious? A little, yes, but everyone was nice. But it’s true, having a lot of people in front of you is a bit scary.” (source)

Maybe he just imagined everyone was naked.

Superman, on the other hand, was invented precisely as a person superior in nature to everyone else. He also, incidentally, was originally created as a villain. Superman is the English translation of Nietzsche’s Ubermench, a word adopted by the Nazis to reference the master race. While his creators quickly retooled him into a heroic character, the fact remains Superman is a being above and beyond normal people not by choice but by nature.

The pope is not.  Francis is a human being elevated into a lofty position that comes with a mighty fine hat.

Header image source: Edgar Martinez (with alteration)

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