I really rarely ever throw out a shout-out to religious leaders, but today I make an exception, particularly because of something seemingly so simple. The new Pope Francis arrived at the papal summer home, Castel Gandolfo, in a humble Ford Focus. This is a far cry from the extreme luxury cars of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who travelled in rides as sleek and stylish as a custom-made Renault, a BMW X5, and a Mercedes.
In contrast, Pope Francis isn't even spending the summer in the luxurious retreat of Castel Gandolfo, but is instead taking more modest accommodations in Rome.
From the gold throne, to the big hat, to the expensive jewels, the long line of 266 popes have always taken criticism for their extravagant expenditures, while at the same time preaching the humble, giving, and minimalist nature taught in the bible. However, number 266 has broken that chain of excess.
Simply put, the symbolism behind this recent pope and his actions have certainly placed a little more faith into the goodness that once inspired organized religion.
Last week the pope called for greater austerity from religious figures, saying, "It hurts me when I see a priest or nun with the latest-model car. You can't do this. A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but, please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world."
This is the kind of leadership that anyone, religious, secular, or otherwise can support. This pope and particularly his urge for pragmatism has inspired people around the world and within Catholicism to do the same. A priest in Colombia answered the Pope's call to humility just last week, saying that he planned to sell his white Mercedes-Benz E200 convertible, which was given to him as a gift from his four brothers.