The world has been quite taken with Pope Francis since his ascension to the papacy earlier this year: his humility and modesty has been a refreshing contrast to the arrogant, self-interested individuals who often dominate headlines. A few of the latest unique papal activities the press has highlighted are Francis’ surprise phone calls to ordinary individuals who are suffering, including an Argentine woman who had been raped and an Italian man who had lost several family members.
One of the most interesting elements in the article is a rumor (denied by the Vatican) that Francis called President Bashir al-Assad of Syria to try and encourage a peaceful resolution to the conflict there. While it might legitimately be just a rumor, is there a possibility that the Pope might have called? Popes have often tried to use their influence to promote peace, but this would have been an unusually direct approach. Perhaps a call was made, but the negative response caused Vatican leaders to deny any attempt?
Regardless of whether such a call was made, I agree with the Vatican officials who are “expressing concern that individuals are impersonating Francis to advance political or ideological agendas.” Without a way to verify that a call is really coming from the pope himself, it would be altogether too easy for individuals to imitate an impromptu papal call for their own ideological purposes.