As he prepares for his first overseas trip as pope, starting Monday, Francis has earned praise for his jovial manner, his evident love of people, his simple lifestyle, his commitment to the downtrodden and his determination to put a personal stamp on the papacy.
He routinely packs St. Peter’s Square for his weekly appearance. Hundreds of thousands of devotees, perhaps millions, are expected to turn out to see Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, during his trip to Brazil, the world’s most populous Roman Catholic nation.
But many of his toughest decisions are to come as he seeks to set the Roman Catholic Church on a new path and to shake up the scandal-plagued, faction-ridden Vatican. Building a reservoir of public support and improving the church’s image outside the Vatican should serve him well in that mission.