Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

POPE Francis’ recently concluded tours of Cuba and the United States have been hailed as triumphs. Hundreds of millions, from staunch Roman Catholics to skeptical outsiders, followed his every move and listened to his message.

Given Francis’ loving charisma and gentle demeanor, it is easy for many to view this pope as they might see any kindly, secular philosophical figure. This is how the media often portrays him — as an unthreatening man who is cheerfully sanding down the sharp edges of his church. But herein lies Francis’ true subversive genius: What looks to some like a smiley-face sticker is actually an invitation to total conversion.

The central theme of Francis’ visit was a call for unity. He has frequently urged us “to dialogue together, to shorten the distance between us, to strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.” With respect to the church, Francis has exhorted priests to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep” and to avoid setting themselves apart from the laity.

But the unity the pope has in mind goes far deeper. The unity that he is challenging us to embrace has no limits, natural or supernatural.

Read more at AEI.org…

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