Near bedlam ensued as the pope’s security force tried to keep the swelling crowds at a distance to allow the small Fiat to move forward. It reportedly took the papal entourage 44 minutes to travel 13 miles.
On the papal flight back to the Vatican July 28, Pope Francis spoke to reporters about his desire to mingle with crowds.
“My security staff is very, very good and now they are letting me do a little bit more,” he said. “With less security I could be with the people, embrace them, greet them without armored cars.”
Perhaps his security force — as well as concerned Catholics around the globe — have flashbacks to 1981, when Blessed John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca at St. Peter’s Square while riding in an open vehicle. It’s reasonable to assume that this assassination attempt has crossed the mind of Pope Francis. However, his style of openness and physical contact with the masses supersedes a fear of the unknown.
“Security lies in trusting people. It’s true that there’s always the danger that a crazy person will try to do something, but there’s also the Lord,” he said in a Catholic News Service report. Standing behind bulletproof glass “is also craziness,” Pope Francis added, and his preference is the craziness of trust.
This is one example that Pope Francis has given us about trust. Throughout his visit to Brazil, the pope encouraged young people, through example and through word, to place their trust in Jesus. God’s love, he said during a Stations of the Cross meditation July 26, “is a love in which we can place all of our trust.”
When he visited Rio de Janeiro’s slums July 25, Pope Francis told church and civic leaders who are fighting social injustice to remain courageous.
“Do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished,” he said.
And when he spoke to the crowds on Copacabana beach July 25, Pope Francis told them that, by putting on Christ, “you will find a friend in whom you can always trust.”
In today’s culture, trust is a precious commodity. Here in Wisconsin, for example, we only have to look to the Milwaukee Brewers for an example of feigned trust. All-star outfielder Ryan Braun, who was recently suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s drugs policy, had denied for more than one year any use of drugs. His teammates and fans trusted him until the evidence forced him to tell the truth.
Our church also knows about broken trust from the clergy sex abuse scandal. While concrete steps have been taken to gain back trust, through child abuse protection and adult awareness programs, the church must remain vigilant.
Cynicism and distrust are human tendencies. Pope Francis, by his example, is proving that trust is not out of reach. In fact, trust is part of the call to discipleship. While the pontificate of Francis is still in its infancy, it seems that the virtue of trust is one of its hallmarks. May his pontificate and his openness to trust in the face of skepticism continue to inspire us for a long, long time.