So Brendan had an interesting post about the Pope Francis phenomena. He ascribes the general interest to mankind's fascination with monarchy and to Catholics in particular the excitement of getting to know somebody new. I agree, though I feel a tiny bit disloyal for feeling so: do we tend to "use up" our leaders, to "consume" their ideas, thoughts, and way of putting things only to want to hear some fresh voice a few years later, as we might similarly tire of those who seem overly familiar to us?
So honestly, would I have paid any attention to Cardinal Bergoglio had he not become pope? The answer is likely no. It's the office - even the clothing? - that makes the man.* Or maybe it's the charisma of the Holy Spirit. It's as if when Bergoglio became pope that he became infused with something special and incredibly enticing. I like to think the Holy Spirit was communicating to us through the cardinals in the election of Pope Francis. Perhaps I'm being naive or pious and overly devotional given the bad popes we've had in the mediaeval past. Being in a church with a history tends to remove rose-colored illusions. But God can and does use humans to fulfill his will - nothing illusory about that.
Anyway I find the Francismania intriguing. One of the things being bandied about is that Francis is "humbler" than Benedict because of his clothing and manner and such. But that's to judge by mere appearances; you can kiss feet and be proud - only God knows the heart. I tend to think it'd be as wrong for Pope Benedict to have done public acts like kissing the feet of AIDS patients as it would be for Pope Francis to not do the same. In other words, where in Benedict an action might take on the flavor of a publicity stunt, in Francis it may be the natural outgrowth of his personal spiritual path. Grace perfects nature, and there's a sense in which the nature of Benedict and Francis are simply different. Which is a-ok.
I've perhaps become over-sensitized to perceived slights against Benedict due to a friend dissing him in an email to me and by Cardinal Mahoney's impressively immature tweets.
* - even Cardinal Dolan said something not totally dissimilar, in that he felt like there was palpable difference between Cardinal Bergoglio being one of the cardinals in the conclave compared to when he became pope.