A Brief History of Pope Francis in the Headlines

9/9 Pope Francis Media Coverage
A man reads a newspaper with a headline showing the newly elected Pope Francis on its front page while sitting in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 14, 2013. Francis, the world’s first Latin American pope, is beloved by the masses and the media. Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Since assuming his post in 2013, Pope Francis has been able to capture public attention and generate excitement in a way his predecessor Benedict XVI never did. Here's a look at some of the reasons the pope has attracted mass appeal.

9/9 Pope Francis Mass Bolivia
The faithful gather to attend a mass celebrated by Francis at Christ the Redeemer Square in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9. The pope told people at a mass in Bolivia that everyone has a moral duty to help the poor, and that those with means could not wish the poor would just "go away." Reuters

History Maker

Francis made history the day he assumed office on March 13, 2013, as the first pope from the new world, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit and the first of his name. His insistence on breaking with tradition has earned him a reputation as the "pope of firsts." For instance, he refused to stand on a platform elevating him above the cardinals during his introduction. And as the introduction went on, instead of blessing the crowd in St. Peter's Square, as is customary, Francis asked them to pray for him.

9/9 Pope Francis Media
Francis washes the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome, March 28, 2013. Osservatore Romano/Reuters

A Man of the People

Francis has been outspoken on the need for the church to help and connect with the least fortunate. In November of last year, it was reported that the pope planned to build showers for the homeless in the historic St. Peter's Square. Later that year, it was reported that Francis planned to open a 30-bed homeless shelter on the edge of Vatican City. He also eschews the jeweled miter and ornate garments Benedict favored, opting instead for simpler vestments. And Francis foregoes the well-appointed papal apartments, instead living out of the more modest papal guesthouse. He has even washed the feet of inmates, and in 2001, he washed and kissed the feet of AIDS patients.

Francis's new encyclical, titled "Laudato Si (Be Praised): On the Care of Our Common Home," is displayed during the presentation news conference at the Vatican, June 18. Max Rossi/Reuters


Francis is not the first pope to champion the environment. But no pontiff has gotten into the nitty-gritty of climate change as Francis has. In June, the Vatican released "Laudato Si," an encyclical in which Francis argued global warming is human-driven, spurring conservative pundits to criticize the pope for involving the church in what they called a strictly political matter. Even Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush felt the need to respond, telling reporters, "I don't get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope."

9/9 Pope Francis Catholic Church Reform
Francis kneels as he leads the Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 24, 2014. Max Rossi/Reuters


Since assuming the papacy in 2013, Francis has become known as a reformer for his efforts to salvage the reputation of a church rocked by several decades of scandal. He established a tribunal to hear cases of bishops who allegedly covered up sexual abuse by priests, a long overdue but welcome move for many Catholics. He's also shaken up the Vatican bureaucracy and publicly criticized members of the Curia, or papal court. At last year's Christmas greeting, Francis castigated the most senior members of the church for 15 "diseases" afflicting the church's leadership, including "existential schizophrenia" and "spiritual Alzheimer's."

9/9 Pope Francis Eye Glasses
Francis tries on a pair of glasses in an optical store in Rome, September 3. Chiara Apollonj/Reuters


Francis's unannounced outings have become one of his hallmarks, so much so that Kenneth Hackett, the United States ambassador to the Holy See, has remarked that Francis's spontaneity makes his security a challenge. In September, he popped into a local eyeglasses shop to have his spectacles examined. And in July 2014, he surprised Vatican workers when, unannounced, he joined them for lunch at their cafeteria. The pope reportedly dined on "a plate of cod, a bowl of fusilli pasta without sauce, a side of grilled tomatoes and 'just a few' french fries," the Associated Press reported. He didn't pay, but he did tip and take photos with the workers. There are even rumors that Francis sneaks out of the Vatican at night disguised as a regular priest to minister to the homeless. The Vatican, of course, has no comment.

9/9 Pope Francis Children Mass
Francis laughs with a baby during a special audience with parish cells for the evangelization in Paul VI hall at the Vatican, September 5. Tony Gentile/Reuters