When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

LA STAMPA

How Obama Was Humbled By Pope Francis

What happened when the most powerful man in the world felt the aura of the Argentine pontiff.

Side by side
Side by side
Michele Brambilla

-Analysis-

ROME — Observers noted that during yesterday’s meeting between President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, one of the men was beaming while the other was serious and composed, wearing the face of someone in a perfectly “normal moment.” Some even described the American president as appearing in utter awe of the pope, though they didn’t sense a reciprocal reaction from the pontiff.

If this is true, and looking at the images it could easily be the case, this might perhaps be the first time that U.S. president — to be perfectly clear, still very much the most powerful man in the world — felt a kind of “inferiority” in the presence of another official.

Obama, who had met Pope Benedict XVI on a previous visit, probably had been warned almost to the point of intimidation about the charisma of the man who has so surprised the world, not just with his words but with his deeds.

It is also likely that Pope Francis — even with the utmost respect and knowledge of his visitor’s power — didn’t regard yesterday’s meeting as any more important than other meetings with “normal people”: poor people from his diocese in Buenos Aires, penitents who come to confession, the chronically ill, parents worried for their children.

The subject of their conversation, obviously, will be much discussed: international politics, disarmament and poverty, what they agree on and what they don’t — gay marriage and abortion, for example. It’s right, naturally, to be curious about these topics.

But it would be a mistake to consider Thursday’s meeting an encounter between two heads of state, as we often do. Obama is one, but Francis is not. They’re two people who operate on entirely different levels. Both are concerned with matters of the world, yes. But one believes all the while that it is not our final destination.

Of course, Obama still embodies hope, thanks to his own personal history. But the hope that the pope embodies, with millions of people following this “leader” who commands neither armies nor empire, is the sign of something else, of a response not just to our daily questions about the meaning of life, but to the eternal ones too.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Can machines be ironic?

Charles Barbour

What was your first reaction when you heard about Blake Lemoine, the Google engineer who announced last month the AI program he was working on had developed consciousness?

If, like me, you’re instinctively suspicious, it might have been something like: Is this guy serious? Does he honestly believe what he is saying? Or is this an elaborate hoax?

Put the answers to those questions to one side. Focus instead on the questions themselves. Is it not true that even to ask them is to presuppose something crucial about Blake Lemoine: specifically, he is conscious?

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ