With his face now on the cover of Rolling Stone, Pope Francis is about as close to rock-status as any pontiff has ever been.
The story by Mark Bellini is an informative, entertaining, sometimes irreverent but respectful portrait of a religious leader who may not be changing Catholic teachings but is deftly changing the international conversation about poverty, gay marriage, women's rights, belief and other controversial topics that have divided mainstream Catholics and others engaged in the culture wars.
Bellini writes how the Argentinian bishop has surprised people within and without the Vatican with his unpredictable style:
"Even within the Vatican, no one knew quite what to expect. 'Ironically, I thought he'd be a disaster, PR-wise, because he doesn't do interviews,' says Greg Burke, a media-savvy, former Fox News reporter (and lay member of Opus Dei) hired by Benedict to assist in the Holy See's public-relations efforts in the wake of VatiLeaks. But the media's normally infallible cynicism melted in the presence of such pontifical delightfulness. He canceled his own newspaper subscription, cold-called people who'd sent him letters ('Ciao, Michele, it's Pope Francis,' he told one stunned Italian) and said nice things about atheists. A plotline that would've sounded preposterous six months earlier swept the secular media — that of 'Cool Pope Francis,' to borrow a headline from Gawker. (Gawker!) But this charm belied Bergoglio's dexterity — and, if the situation demands, ruthlessness — as an operator. (Argentine journalist Elisabetta) Piqu calls him 'a political animal,' and indeed, over the past 10 months, Bergoglio has shown himself to be a stealth enforcer, capable of summoning that old authoritarian steel if it serves a higher purpose."