“Maybe it is because he is from Argentina,” wrote my son Daniel, who spent a semester in Buenos Aires, “but I love Francis. The guy is also a skilled politician.” His note accompanied a news article about the pope’s visit to the Middle East, where Francis presented an image that was at once diplomatic and genuine. I haven’t had much nice to say of late about the Catholic Church, whose record of abuse and concealment is one of the most chilling stories of modern history. And while his public persona is necessarily ahead of substantive changes in the church, Francis offers a hopeful new direction. On his trip to Israel and Palestine he paid homage at two powerful walls – the Western Wall, holiest of Jewish sites, and the West Bank barrier some call the “apartheid wall.” He had travelled a long way not only from Rome but from his predecessor, Pius X (a man also known for his “simple origins”), who in 1903 rebuffed Theodor Herzl’s request for help in establishing a Jewish state, telling the founder of Zionism that all his followers should instead convert to Catholicism. That kind of dogmatic sectarianism remains a discordant force in a world in which people continue to slaughter each other over religious beliefs. Francis intentionally took the name of a saint who offered the church a truly revolutionary path, which it rejected. Eight centuries later a pope’s embrace of openness, tolerance and humility are a measure of his courage and our hope.