Comparing, Contrasting Pope Francis and John Paul II

- Almost any pope is, by definition, a 'newsmaker,' but Pope Francis seems to grab headlines through the style, and substance of his work almost every day.

Kind of like John Paul II, who, in his own way, brought greater attention to the papacy.

We asked FOX 29's Bruce Gordon to compare and contrast these two wildly popular popes.

Scour the souvenir kiosks near Saint Peter's Square and you'd swear the Pontificate of Benedict the 16th never happened!

Everywhere you look, it's John Paul II this and Francis that.

Ask tourists to name their favorite Pope, and the two names rise to the top.     

 "Pope John Paul II," one woman answered.

 "Why is that?" Bruce countered.

 "Well, I can relate to him.  I'm Ukrainian and he's Polish and so we're near on the border, and a lot of the things he talked about really touched my heart," the woman explained.

Bruce asked Rocco Palmo what the two Popes had in common, "Well, obviously, the wild charisma," he

Palmo, who chronicled the papacy through his "Whispers in the Loggia" blog, says John Paul II, the first-ever Polish pope and Francis, the first from South America, share a belief in the vital role of their papacies.                                            

"The sense of wanting to make an impact, concretely in policy, in the life of the world.  Not just in the church," Palmo said.

For John Paul, that meant fighting to end Communism.

For Francis, playing diplomat as the U.S. and Cuba re-established ties.

Oh, there are plenty of differences; personal styles and age. John Paul II was just 58-years old when he assumed the papacy.

Francis was 76.

John Paul operated in a world of TV news.

Francis lives in the Twitter-sphere.

Father Daniel Joyce is Vice President of Mission at St. Joseph's University.           

"Pope John Paul II was a strong leader.  He represented leadership from the center of the church at a time when we needed that," said Joyce, "Pope Francis, ironically, is a very shy man.  A high introvert.  But I think he understands that the office of the Pope, the position, the being the Bishop of Rome, requires he be this person who the church and the world gets to know, and here's his message."

Both pontiffs faced challenges; for John Paul II it was the priest sex abuse scandal.

For Francis, it's shrinking church membership, especially in the U-S.

But, Palmo says, both men have each in their own way, transformed their institution.

"They've enabled Catholics to feel good about the church, (and for) the rest of the world to look on and say, they deserve listening to, because their leader practices what he preaches," Palmo said. 

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