Pope Francis becomes the first pope to cover Rolling Stone: ridiculous or awesome?

pope RS

It seems like only yesterday that Rolling Stone was making one of the Boston Bombers into a Teen Beat-esque dreamboat, and now here we are, with Pope Francis covering the new issue. This is the first time a pope has ever covered Rolling Stone. So maybe he’s not so much “The People’s Pope” as “The Rock N’ Roll Pope”? He was a bouncer at a club, remember? I wonder if he digs The Beatles. Anyway, RS put their cover story online, and you can read the whole thing here. Here’s the overview:

Sarah Palin has described Pope Francis as “kind of liberal.” Rush Limbaugh has used the phrase “pure Marxism” to describe the pope’s idea that a modern “culture of prosperity” has deadened people to the miseries of the poor. And many more conservatives have questioned his comment on homosexual priests – “Who am I to judge?” So just who is Pope Francis?

Rolling Stone sent contributing editor Mark Binelli inside the Vatican to deliver a portrait of His Holiness, a man who was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio 77 years ago in Buenos Aires, for the cover story in our new issue (on stands Friday). What he learned was that Pope Francis is making a noticeable break from Vatican tradition, facing political issues head on and presenting a more all-inclusive attitude toward human rights – and that Catholics are appreciative.

In less than a year since his papacy began, Pope Francis has done much to separate himself from past popes and establish himself as a people’s pope. Francis chose not to reside in the papal palace, but to stay in the Vatican guest house, freeing himself of the insulation of Vatican clergymen. He opts to ride around town in a Ford Focus instead of a chauffeured limo. He pays his own hotel bills and keeps his agenda. And, while Binelli was in Italy, he told a congregation in the piazza that was weathering a storm that he wished he could come down to be with them. “He seems to really mean it,” Binelli reported.

A Vatican insider commented on the way Francis has opted for privacy and independence in a way his predecessors haven’t. “John Paul II and Benedict both had an inner circle so this is very disconcerting to the people on the inside,” he told Rolling Stone. “Does Francis have a war room? No, probably not. But who is he talking to back there? No one really knows.”

Beyond offering a friendlier alternative to Benedict XVI – his predecessor, who was the first pope to resign from his post in 700 years and who had a far more draconian outlook on homosexuality – Pope Francis has begun investigations into possible corruption within the church. He has explored ways to deal with the problem of pedophilia, looking into ways to take measures and counsel victims.

“Francis is already changing the church in real ways through his words and symbolic gestures,” Father Thomas J. Reece, a senior analyst at the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter told Rolling Stone. “He could sit in his office, go through canon law and start changing rules and regulations. But that’s not what people want him to do.”

Since the papal election, attendance at papal events in the Vatican have tripled to 6.6 million people, Binelli reports. Through quotations from Vatican experts and an engaging biography that shows how the pope struggled through dark times to emerge as the frontrunner for papacy, Rolling Stone presents the pope as a man tied to religious tradition on one hand and fighting to bring the church into a new era with the other. As the cover suggests, “The times, they are a-changin’.”

[From Rolling Stone]

“He could sit in his office, go through canon law and start changing rules and regulations. But that’s not what people want him to do.” Um… that’s what SOME people want him to do. But that’s not what the Vatican’s conservative old guard wants. It’s so encouraging, isn’t it? The fact that there’s a Pope who is engaged not only in addressing the pedophilia scandals, but who also wants to reign in some of the reckless and feckless spending by some of the bishops and priests. Can the Pope order an audit of Vatican expenses? That would be interesting.



Cover courtesy of Rolling Stone, additional photos by Fame/Flynet.

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56 Responses to “Pope Francis becomes the first pope to cover Rolling Stone: ridiculous or awesome?”

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  1. V4Real says:

    Well he is treated like a rock star….so rock on Pope Francis.

  2. mar says:

    I love him and Im a Jew!

    • Janet says:

      I know right. I was raised Catholic (not strict), and at an early age I realized the hypocrisy of the church and attempts by all organized to exlude and shame. I admire him as a human being.

    • JojoAnn says:

      I love him and I’m an aethist.

      • Brittaki says:

        I’m an atheist and while I very much appreciate and admire how progressive he is compared to those who came before him, he is staunchly anti-abortion, which I cannot get behind.

  3. Janet says:

    AWESOME He deserves it. He is a good person who embodies the true message of Jesus. Pope Francis rocks!

  4. Sullivan says:

    Good Gawd, I love this guy.

  5. Sixer says:

    There’s even some conciliatory dialogue with the liberationists, which I think has to be a good thing. And I’m an atheist!

  6. Lizzie says:

    I’m curious as to how he pays his own hotel bills when priests take a vow of poverty… he’s not allowed to have any worldly possessions and popes don’t receive a salary.

    Anyway, good on him. His preaching of tolerance is making it a lot easier for people to stay with the Church.

    • AmyR says:

      Not all priests take a vow of poverty, only certain orders do. (Nuns do too.)

    • paola says:

      The church pays the priests..and the church is very very rich. They get money from donations and from italian taxes as well. Plus in Italy, when you die and have no heirs and don’t sign on a will, your money goes to the church.

      • Anait says:

        In Italy, when you die with no heirs every things you own don’t go to the Church, but to the Italian Republic.

      • paola says:

        When someone dies in Italy without will or heirs the money goes to Italian Republic, but the government disposes that a part of it goes to the Church. Even on your monthly paycheck if you’re not very careful you can donate 8%° (8 per mille) to the catholic church. The church holds control of a lot paper works in Italy, somethimes you have to read the documents very carefully to be sure you’re not donating your money (even if in small percentages ) to the church.

    • mayamae says:

      I don’t know about hotel bills, but when he was a Cardinal in Buenos Aires, he used public transportation instead of being chauffeured, and eschewed the extravagant living quarters typical of his rank. Upon becoming Pope, he took on simpler vestments instead of the highly ornamented ones usually used.

      He seems truly humble and inclusive. He recently defrocked 200 child molesting priests who had previously only been reassigned. He’s welcoming back Catholics who left the church disillusioned. He’s open to gay priests who remain celibate. He’s even made positive comments about gay couples adopting.

      At the end of the day if you piss off Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, and impress anti-religion Bill Maher, you’re doing something right. But I’m not Catholic, so my opinion probably doesn’t matter.

      • FLORC says:

        He does seem good. I can’t see him putting much of a dent in the corruption within the Vatican, but it’s good he’s kicking up some dust.

        A true sign of the religous is being disillusioned, no? I’m downright jaded at this point from being in both the Catholic and Greek Orthodox side.

      • TrustMeOnThis says:

        He is a HUGE improvement over evil old Ratzy with his ermine cape! Let’s hope he can successfully make some progress.

  7. Diana says:

    He is amazing!!!!!! Love him

  8. doofus says:

    one of the few who seem to take “what would Jesus do?” to heart.

    you know, hanging out with the poor, the diseased, the downtrodden…speaking out against hoarding money & materialism and encouraging those more fortunate to help out those less fortunate, welcoming those normally excluded…I hear more and more of my fellow (lapsed/recovering) Catholics talk about how much they like this guy.

    Pope Frank is a cool dude.

  9. Froop says:

    I can’t decide whether he is any different or if the Vatican has hired a great new PR team. He seems like a breath of fresh air and he’s far more likeable than the last guy.

    • paola says:

      New PR team. i’m italian and everybody thinks the old pope has been pushed to resign to get a breath of fresh air with a new likeable pope. He seems ok but at the end they’re all the same. though.

      • Arlene says:

        Agreed, I don’t see much difference between this head of an anti-gay anti-woman branch of religion and the last, except better PR.

      • CoolWhipLite says:

        I have to agree with you paola and Arlene – I just can’t get on the hype train for Pope Francis (or any Pope, really). I’m a Christ-follower, no longer a member of the Catholic church, but there are too many skeletons in the Papal closets for me to warm up to any Pontiff.

  10. BooBooLaRue says:

    Frickn’ AWESOME and I’m agnostic!

  11. Frenzy says:

    Nothing but love! Viva el Papa!

  12. Brickyard Ute says:

    Catholic here and LOVE him! Our church has had a lot of issues and I am so happy he has taken so many of them on.

  13. Liberty says:

    And right now, Nuclear Winter is throwing a water bottle and screeching, “Dammit it, why did I say he looked too fat in white for our cover?”

    I love him too. Awesome, stand-up Pope.

  14. GeeMoney says:

    Love this guy.

  15. Neffie says:

    whats the difference between atheist and agnostic (i know google is my friend)

  16. paola says:

    I am italian and i’ll start liking the Church and the Pope when they’ll start paying their own taxes. The Vatican says they’re a separate country but italians have to pay for everything they do in the Vtican, while the Church shares nothing with italian citizens. If I could i would remove the pope and place him in another country so we’d finally achieve progress. At the moment in this country, thanks to the Pope itself and the church (and many politicians who do this in the name of Jesus) gay people have no rights, non married couples have no meaning and religion influences politics in every way.
    I have to admit Pope Francis is better than Ratzinger but nothing will ever change.

    • sputnik says:

      i hear you. while this pope certainly is striking a more level and conciliatory tone, it really hasn’t changed enough within the church. it’s a different matter when you live in a country where the church have real power. here in spain the (extremely right wing) church, who are publicly funded, untaxed and highly privileged, wield their power over politics, education and the media. this impacts gay right, women’s reproductive issues (spain is just about to ban abortion), and a plethora of other things. i’ve even seen bishops here involve themselves in protesting help to the poor (“free school meals are communist”). but, you know, glad people are enjoying their rock star pope PR stunt. i’ll save my praise for when things actually change.

      • paola says:

        I know it’s really hard to know how it feels when you don’t live in a country ruled by religion. The only things you hear about the Pope abroad are marvellous things, on how he helps the youngs, how understanding he is, how open to different cultures, but this is all BS . We have to deal with the church every single day
        Every time there’s a new pope, Italian citizens pay, with their taxes ( from married people, unmarried, gay people any person on their books) for the stay of all the church people coming to Rome.
        The Vatican doesnt’s pay taxes at all, they don’t pay garbage taxes, they don’t pay for tehir water, electricity, gas..nothing! If i’m not catholic i still have to pay for that even if i wouldn’t want to because it’s considered a privilge to be able to support the pope and the church.
        While i don’t hate the Pope himself, i’m mad with the system. The church covers murders, rape, racism and other sort of stuff. the other day a nun gave birth in italy. A NUN!
        so why should i pay for them to live by their rules while they don’t live by their rules?? F-ing nonsense.

    • bluhare says:

      One of the reasons I love this site is the people from all over the world who post here (and I would never know you guys don’t speak English as your first language either!), but I just have one thing to say about this.

      Rome wasn’t built in a day.

      It’s hard to change 2000 years in one. I hope that he really is trying to change things but it can’t happen all at once, right?

      • paola says:

        Thank you Bluhare, it’s a big compliment 🙂

        You’re right about that, but i honestly believe the Pope hasn’t got all the power the church wants us to believe. He can decide very little and everything he decides is scrutinezed and approved. Things can change.. but i don’t believe the church will ever accpet a gay marriage or a gay couple. It seems like they can accept divorce but only because the majority of people have gone through one.. and in this times the church can’t afford to be picky.
        From here I can see the duality of the church, wanting to be more likeable to have more followers but not enough emancipated to pay their own bills, pay their own taxes and actually sell some of the gold they have stocked in their banks to help many poor people in many poor countries.
        I’m sure Pope Francis is a better person than most of the people out there, but he really has no power in taking ground braking decisions.. He’s only one of the faces of the Church.

      • pamspam says:

        Very true, Bluhare.

        Paola – totally get what you’re saying. I look at it this way…he may not have as much power as people suspect, but he has the ability to inspire and lead by example. That, in and of itself, will hopefully have a profound impact on many.

    • Kath says:

      “I’ll start liking the Church and the Pope when they’ll start paying their own taxes.”

      Let’s extend that to ALL religions, shall we? This includes the revolting Duggar family who claim to live with no state handouts but have declared their own home a ‘church’ and so enjoy tax-free status.

      • Lou says:

        Jesus said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, unto God what is God’s.” In other words, pay your taxes, jerks. There are so many verses in the Bible that tell people to pay their taxes. Amazing how many Christians, from the Vatican to the Duggars, ignore that.

  17. laura says:

    I love love Pope Francis! he embodies what catholicism should be….

  18. Layla says:

    I’m a lapsed Catholic but this guy’s really got my attention. He seems to actually think that a Pope should, I don’t know, CARE ABOUT THE POOR instead of fretting over gay marriage laws. He’s awesome

  19. WendyNerd says:

    He’s a hundred times better than Benedict, but that isn’t really saying much. Benedict was an absolute disaster. Even my Mother, who is a devout Catholic, will say so, and she hates criticizing the Church.

    Here’s the thing: while I understand that reform, especially reform in an institution like the Catholic Church takes time and inspires tons of controversy (just look at Vatican II), the proof needs to be in the pudding with this guy. While I like the fact that he’s spoken out in defense of homosexuals and atheists to a degree and think he might very well be a step in the right direction, I’m wary of all this furor. I’ve watched the Vatican try to play lip-service to playing nice with others before. I have been exposed to a lot of catechism and a lot of their PR antics and shit. There have been numerous times when I’ve seen any given bishop, cardinal, or pope try to pretend to be progressive. I remember with my diocese how our bishop paid lip-service to “respecting women”, yet our sect was one of the last in the US to allow girls to be alter servers. No joke. I remember going to Catholic School, and by my junior year I had already begun my conversion to Judaism (I was raised in a bi-religious household, half-Jewish/Half-Catholic. More emphasis on Catholicism as my Father’s family was fairly secular, but we always observed holidays and traditions and attended temple occasionally), but one day during a private service at school, the scheduled alter boy was called in sick and the School Chaplain was scrambling to find someone, anyone to help him. I made the offer. Even though I had stopped being a practicing Catholic years prior (I rejected confirmation, which is supposed to seal the deal with the Church that you are, in fact, a self-identified, official, adult member of the Church), but I was always very knowledgable about the rituals and I’d been an alter server in another diocese. I wanted to help the priest out, because he was a nice guy, and he knew I was more knowledgable than most about what to do. But he couldn’t let me because of the restrictions of our diocese. It’s that kind of ridiculousness I’m used to with the Church. Officials paying lip-service to some progressive-sounding stuff to try and play the PR game while not actually practicing any real reform. So I’m not ready yet to jump on the “Pope Francis is awesome!” bandwagon just yet. Trust me, I like what he’s saying, and he is definitely being a lot better than most, but I’m waiting for real, major changes to occur before I’m ready to completely embrace this guy. I realize this could take a very long time and I appreciate that, but the Church’s track record forces me to be skeptical. When he’s ready to push for women being allowed into the priesthood, or issues a statement loosening up the Church’s stance on Birth control, or formally condemns those priests who are urging their congregations to vote against the extension of the statute of limitations on sex crimes, then I will be happy to be all “Yay Pope Francis!” But yeah, no. Nice of him to talk the talk. But he needs to walk the walk as well.

    • Cecilia says:

      Born & raised Catholic. 12 years Catholic school + 4 years Catholic University. Went to Convent.

      Ah yes…The Holy Roman Empire. The Original Shadow Government. Making a come-back?

  20. Bread and Circuses says:

    He is an awesome pope, but yes, it is a bit ridiculous to put him on Rolling Stone.

  21. moo says:

    The Pope is awesome, don’t get me wrong! Rolling Stone, on the other hand, has sold themselves out! I quit taking their magazine after 25+ years because it recently (within the last couple years) has nothing to do with MUSIC! THAT is all I wanted out of them… not movie stars, or TV shows, or politicians. Just give me the MUSIC you were FAMOUS FOR!!! And THIS proves it! Otherwise, rock on Pope Francis!!!

    • Isabelle says:

      They have a history of putting non-muscians on the cover. Often, people that are in the news or relevant at the time. Also music has sadly become one of the most bland and predictable things in our culture. It’s going thru a rather boring and vanilla stage. Pope Francis x10 more interesting than any pop musician out there.

  22. LahdidahBaby says:

    I love Pope Frankie.

  23. Tara says:

    Awesome. This guy makes Catholicism tempting again.

  24. Isabelle says:


  25. Cricket says:

    I love this Pope too! My favorite story I read when he first was named Pope was about calling his paper boy to tell him he had to cancel his paper delivery and they could not believe it was him on the phone. They also said that every month, he would stop by their stand and return the rubber bands from his papers so they could be recycled.

    There is also a quote.. To paraphrase, he said after they chose him, I hope they know what they bargained for.

    Rock on Pope Francesco! I will have to buy this issue to show support!