ROME (RNS) In a wide-ranging interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis said media and popular culture references comparing him to Superman are “offensive” because he’s just a regular guy.

Reflecting on his first anniversary as pontiff, the pope also addressed the sex scandals facing the church and allowed that he might one day decide to retire as his predecessor did.

Last month, graffiti appeared near the Vatican depicting the pontiff as a kind of holy man of steel, armed with a briefcase labeled “values.” The image got wide media attention, but Francis bristled at the comparison.

Pope Francis was named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2013. Photo courtesy Time magazine

Pope Francis was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013. Photo courtesy Time magazine


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“Depicting the pope as a kind of superman, as a kind of star, is offensive to me,” he said. “A pope is a man who laughs and cries and sleeps well and has friends, just like everyone else. He’s a normal person.”

Francis’ first year was full of accolades, including Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. He was also nominated for a Nobel Prize for Peace.

He has also brought a humble style to the Holy See and is seen as making progress in confronting some of the most difficult issues confronting the church, including corruption and a weak connection with rank-and-file Catholics.

One area where critics say he has done too little involves confronting the sex scandals that have tarnished the church’s image.

Addressing that issue in the interview, he said the church has been scrutinized more than any other organization.

“The Catholic Church is probably the only public institution to have acted with such transparency and responsibility,” Francis said. “No other organization has done more. And yet the church is the only organization to have been attacked.”

He allowed that the abuse cases involving clergy have “left very deep wounds,” but he also said they were not unique to the church.

Pope Francis carries his crosier after celebrating Mass in the piazza outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 4. The pontiff was making his first pilgrimage as pope to the birthplace of his papal namesake. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis carries his crosier after celebrating Mass in the piazza outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, on Oct. 4. The pontiff was making his first pilgrimage as pope to the birthplace of his papal namesake. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Francis also praised predecessor Benedict XVI for being “courageous” and “opening up a path” for the church to change its attitude toward sexual abuse from clergy.

The comments were the most comprehensive on the subject of the sex scandals from Francis since the U.N. released a scathing critique of the Vatican’s efforts to confront the issue.

Francis repeated his admiration of Benedict for his decision to become the first pope in 600 years to retire. He said it could happen more often and that the church should develop an active role for retired popes. Francis even said he might one day decide to follow Benedict’s precedent and retire.

YS/MG END LYMAN

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