Pope Francis has received the type of press coverage from the media during his year as Pope that I have only seen Obama during 2008-2009 get. Primarily this is because most of the media is certain that Pope Francis will reverse or neuter the position of the Church on key moral issues where the media is in lockstep opposition to the Church. However, this is not the only reason for the positive press coverage. Pope Francis has the mysterious quality called charisma that is so important for any public figure in an age of mass communications.
Since the death of Pope Pius XII the Church has experienced an interesting pattern of a charismatic pope being followed by a non-charismatic pope, being followed by a charismatic pope. Pope John XXIII, who Pope Francis seems to modeling himself on, had a charisma not seen in the papacy since Pio Nono. Paul VI, poor tortured man, had not an ounce of charisma to his name. Pope John Paul I died so swiftly that I do not include him in the pattern. Pope John Paul II, until his last illness afflicted years, might well have been the most charismatic pope in the history of the Church. Pope Benedict was doubtless one of the most brilliant, and least charismatic, pontiffs ever to grace the throne of Peter.
It is to be regretted that such an amorphous quality as charisma seems to be playing such a prominent role in how popes are perceived, but there it is. We live in an emotional age, where people are swayed less by reason and argument than any time since the so-called Reformation, and charisma serves as a poor substitute for thought in how many people react to leaders today. Charismatic leaders can of course be very good or very bad, their charisma enhancing their ability to make changes, for good or for ill. Pope Francis definitely has charisma to spare. We will see how he makes use of it.