Apr 27, 2015
Last fall, while in Rome to take part in the extraordinary, multi-faith, Vatican-sponsored colloquium on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage”, my wife and I had the privilege and wonderful opportunity of meeting briefly with His Holiness, Pope Francis. Later that same day we were even blessed to glimpse a little bit of his personal residence, lunching with some other guests in his dining room, and seeing the small chapel where he offers his private prayers and begins each day with the celebration of Mass.
Several impressions linger from that treasured visit. One is of the Holy Father’s very real compassion for all people. We watched as he made a point of seeking out the disabled who had come to see him, embracing each of them with a touching tenderness and affection. We stood by as he conversed warmly with a fellow priest from Latin America in their native Spanish. This is a man who daily stands before thousands, interacts with teeming crowds, and meets one-on-one with dozens of petitioners and well-wishers. Yet a genuine, very personal empathy radiates from this pontiff, and flows almost tangibly out to each one he engages.
He is a remarkable listener. As our brief turn came we shared the work of our global legal ministry, Alliance Defending Freedom, he presented an almost laser-like focus, asked a thoughtful question, giving generously of his very limited time to really hear and understand what we were saying, and offering his encouragement and blessing. Across 35 years in public service, I have interacted with a sizable array of people in high positions – church leaders as well as politicians – and can attest to how truly unusual that kind of attentiveness is inn such a crowded and demanding environment.