Despite the ethereal air that has often surrounded popes over the centuries, Francis is famous for projecting ordinary humanity. Usually that everyman ethos expresses itself in warmth and approachability, though every now and then we also get a glimpse of grumpiness, as happened on New Year’s Eve when Francis slapped away an overly clingy woman in St. Peter’s Square.
More rarely still, we also see this Pope showing another classic human emotion – grief. Ironically enough, the most recent case in point also came on New Year’s Eve, although it didn’t generate anything like the media echo of the slapping incident. On Dec. 31, Pope Francis attended the funeral Mass of a friend, Italian laywoman Maria Grazia Mara, nicknamed “Nella,” who died at the age of 95 the day before. The Pope showed up at the Church of St. Joseph on Rome’s Via Nomentana at roughly 3:00 p.m. unannounced, placed some flowers on the casket, and then took a seat in the front row to the right of where the body was lying in repose.