By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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Imagine the conversation:

“Hi, Daniel. It’s Cardinal Jorge. Ah, just so you know, I’m going to have to cancel my newspaper delivery. Something’s come up and I won’t be home for a while.”

I’m free-forming here, but a similar call was made to a paper carrier in Argentina last week, canceling a long-running delivery.

The call was from Pope Francis I, made to Daniel Del Regno, paper carrier to the Pope while he was an Archbishop in Argentina. And of course, the something that came up was Cardinal Jorge being elected Pope.

For his part, though Del Regno was stunned by the call, the Pope’s intentions came as no surprise. The merchant noted that he’d been delivering the Archbishop’s daily paper for years, except on Sunday, when the priest picked up the paper in person. Cardinal Jorge also returned the thirty rubber bands the paper was bound in once each month.

Last week, during festivities surrounding his inauguration as Pope, Francis eschewed special travel arrangements, opting instead to ride a mini van with other cardinals to and from the hotel and the Vatican. The image of the smiling clergy bouncing along on the bus with the Pope wrangling an aisle seat reminded me of countless Catholic school trips I took as a child and later chaperoned with my kids. The only thing missing was a soundtrack of the men singing Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall. (Yes, we sang that on every field trip when I was a kid. I think the poor teachers figured if we were singing, even if it was about beer, we weren’t getting into trouble, so they let us belt out an ode to the suds to our hearts’ content.)

The Pope also settled his own hotel bill, is sticking with his own pair of loafers instead of fancy red shoes, has chosen a silver, rather than gold, papal ring and is usually seen wearing a simple iron cross instead of an ornate gold one.

Yeah, I like this guy.

The Catholic Church has taken a well-deserved beating over the past several years for its terrible mishandling of sex abuse scandals and more recently, for allegations of financial and other improprieties taking place in the Vatican itself. Many life-long Catholics, myself included, have stepped back from a church that no longer seemed to be about what it claimed to be about.

I’m sure things will change for Francis, and I doubt he’ll be making his own meals, as he did in Argentina or returning rubber bands to the local paper boy. Plus, it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be in reuniting a scattered flock. (Actually, the whole sheep image rubs me the wrong way, but it’s sort of in the Bible, so I’d better keep my mouth shut on that one.)

Especially during Easter week, it’s refreshing to see a Pope who doesn’t look like he’s going to hide behind the ornate Vatican walls. Francis may be driving his security detail nuts, but I hope he keeps shaking hands, staying in touch with the people and leaving the fancy Italian leather shoes to the fashionistas–or to me, if they happen to be on sale at T.J. Maxx.

A Pope truly of the people. Hmmm…I wonder if he knows Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall?

What’s your take on the Catholic Church’s new Pope Francis I? Click “comments” below and share!