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Pope makes Rolling Stone cover, says God trumps soccer

'The times they are a-changin'' says US music bible

28 January, 19:03
Pope makes Rolling Stone cover, says God trumps soccer (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Vatican City, January 28 - Pope Francis, recently named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2013, got another resumé-boosting accolade Tuesday when he became the first pontiff to grace the cover of another flagship of US journalism, iconic music publication Rolling Stone.

The street-cred-enhancing tribute was announced on the same day Francis came out with another of his characteristically media-friendly soundbites, putting God ahead of his love for soccer. A smiling picture of the humble and reform-minded pontiff was splashed across the latest issue of the US music and youth-culture bible, due to hit newsstands Friday, over the title of one of Bob Dylan's landmark 1960s protest songs, The times they are a-changin'.

Rolling Stone's feature focused on what it called the "gentle revolution" ushered in by the Argentine pontiff.

"Pope Francis is making a noticeable break from Vatican tradition, facing political issues head on and presenting a more all-inclusive attitude toward human rights - that Catholics are appreciative of," read the 7,700-word profile from the Vatican by contributing editor Mark Binelli. "In less than a year since his papacy began, Pope Francis has done much to separate himself from past popes and establish himself as a people's pope," Binelli said, using the same title Time anointed Francis with when it named him Person of the Year last month, beating Barack Obama and Edward Snowden. Since Francis was elected as 266th pope a month after the shock abdication of the staunchly traditional Benedict XVI last February, the article said, attendance at papal events in the Vatican have tripled to 6.6 million people.

The former Buenos Aires cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been a breath of fresh air after what Rolling Stone claimed was "the disastrous papacy" of Benedict, the first pope to stand down in 700 years under the pressure of sex-abuse and financial scandals, warring lobbies reportedly including a gay one, and an allegedly dysfunctional and hard-to-control Church management.

The article contrasted Benedict's sometimes uneasy public manner, gaffes that offended Muslims and Jews, and his "draconian" attitude to issues like gays, with Francis' laid-back and inclusive approach.

"Francis' basic mastery of skills like smiling in public seemed a small miracle to the average Catholic. "But he had far more radical changes in mind. "By eschewing the papal palace for a modest two-room apartment, by publicly scolding church leaders for being "obsessed" with divisive social issues like gay marriage, birth control and abortion," Francis struck an entirely different and surprising note, Rolling Stone said. The journal of record for rock, pop and youth concerns highlighted Francis's famous rejoinder when asked his views on homosexual priests: "Who am I to judge"?. "Perhaps most astonishingly of all," Rolling Stone said, Francis devoted much of his first major written teaching to a "scathing critique of unchecked free-market capitalism" which chimed with the message of Jesus. "The pope revealed his own obsessions to be more in line with the boss' son," the US magazine said.

Shortly before the news of the Rolling Stone laurel came in, Francis took a leaf out of the book of soccer, one of his more famous enthusiasms, to urge the faithful to be louder in declaring their love for the Lord.

Catholic should sing God's praises as much as they celebrate strikers scoring goals, the soccer-loving pope said in a homily.

"Well, you're able to shout when your team scores a goal, and you are not able to sing praises to the Lord? To come out of your shell ever so slightly to sing His praise?," said the pope, who is a card-carrying supporter of hometown club San Lorenzo. "Praising God is completely gratis. We do not ask Him to give us anything: we do not express gratitude for anything He has given; we praise Him!", Francis told a Mass at St Martha's House, the Vatican residence that houses his humble flat.

Also on Tuesday, a survey showed that Pope Francis beat United States President Barack Obama and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in global Google searches last year.

Francis was also top in the number of Web hits, ahead of the US President and Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the survey by Italian polling company 3rdPlace for an Italian Catholic association,

The Argentine pontiff clocked up more than 1.737 million monthly Google searches and was mentioned over 49 million times on the Web, the study said.

Francis's popularity was "surprising" among the young people he is reaching out to as well as migrants and poor, Aleteia said.

In Italy Francis beat out all showbiz stars and other youth idols, while on the world stage he was only pipped by Justin Bieber and One Direction.

Also on his adopted home turf, the charismatic pope was beaten to top Google spot by anti-establishment comedian-turned politician Beppe Grillo.

Unsinkable conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi topped the Italian rankings for Internet mentions, just ahead of Francis.