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Gandhi and the Popes

From Pius XI to Francis


Peter Gonsalves

Gandhi today is universally recognised as an international icon, but did his influence extend to the Vatican as well? The author unravels the answer by pursuing six research targets. The book opens with a historical inquiry into Gandhi’s unsuccessful attempt to meet Pius XI, and then goes on to examine the writings and speeches of the Popes from Pius XI to Benedict XVI who alluded to Gandhi. Adopting a hermeneutical slant, it also engages in a comparative study of the thoughts and actions of Pope Francis and Gandhi, and highlights some remarkable similarities that call for an explanation. In the process, the book explores and assesses the popular claim that Gandhi was influenced by Christ, and the not so popular conjecture that Francis was influenced by Gandhi.
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3. Francis and Gandhi: The Communication Revolution


3. Francis and Gandhi: The Communication Revolution

One year into his papacy, Pope Francis has already secured a special place in world history. The informal titles he has earned ever since he assumed office in mid-March 2013 are proof enough. He has been called ‘the pope of surprises’,1 ‘the pope for the poor’,2 ‘the people’s pope’,3 ‘a miracle of humility in an age of vanity’,4 ‘a man of peace and purpose and a voice for the voiceless.’5 One journalist called him ‘the least popey Pope in papal history.’6

Barely seven months after his election, Vatican observers were convinced that an unprecedented ‘revolution was underway.’7 News reports recorded a major transformation in public perceptions of the Catholic Church, marked by an increase in Church attendance and a renewed interest in Catholic charities. A year later, Jesuits in the US reported an increase in candidates seeking admission to ← 63 | 64 → the Order.8 This extraordinary phenomenon has been christened the ‘Bergoglio Effect’9 and the ‘Francis Effect.’10

It has also taken the mass media by storm. During his first hundred days in office, news agencies and mass media companies vied aggressively with each other to be the first to publish a new episode, a striking metaphor, a catchy photograph or a touching sermon. Statistics of social networking sites registered a giant leap in papal enthusiasm. At the end of March 2013, barely two weeks after his appearance, data revealed that Pope Francis was being...

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