ROME March 5, 2014 -- Pope Francis said that media coverage that depicts him as a "superman" is "offensive" because he is just a "normal person."
The pope spoke to an Italian newspaper just a week before the first anniversary of his election as the first pope from Argentina. He has quickly become enormously popular for his common touch and orders to other church leaders to take a more humble approach.
Francis, however, bristled at the adulation he has received.
“Depicting the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, is offensive to me,” Francis said.
"The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps well and has friends like everyone else; a normal person," he said.
Speaking in the interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera about the myth-making of his persona he explained, “I like to be among the people, be together with those who suffer, visit parishes,” but he also debunked one story about him.
“Like when it is said, for example, that I leave the Vatican at night to go to distribute food to the homeless. It never crossed my mind. Sigmund Freud said, if I am not mistaken, that every idealization is an aggression,” he said.
The pope’s growing popularity has brought four times the number of pilgrims flocking to see him than his predecessor. He was named Time’s Person of the Year and has graced the cover of The Rolling Stone magazine among hundreds of others around the world. His twitter accounts in nine languages have over 12 million followers and his name is one of the most clicked on the web worldwide. It was announced today that Pope Francis is also on the list of those who could be chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
Graffiti depicting the pope as a superhero popped up on a building near the Vatican, but it was quickly scrubbed away. And a new Italian gossip magazine began publishing today entitled "My Pope," dedicated to news about the pope.
In the interview the pope bolstered his "normal person" image by reminiscing about an old girlfriend he once spoke about.
“A girl made my head spin for a week while I was in the seminary,” the pope recalled. The interview asked “And how did it end? And the pope replied with a big smile, 'It was kids stuff. I spoke to my confessor.'”
He shrugged off reports that he renewed his Argentine passport instead of using his Vatican City one, saying the reason he renewed his passport was "because it was about to expire."
In his typically straight-forward, frank style, he also spoke of Pope Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI, who lives in the Vatican after resigning last year ahead of Francis’ election as pope.
“The Pope Emeritus is not a statue in a museum,” Francis said. He said it is an institution we have to get used to and we must become familiar with his role. “Benedict is the first, maybe there will be others.”
"Some would have liked that he retire to a Benedictine abbey far from the Vatican. I thought of the grandfathers who with their wisdom, their council, give strength to the family and do not deserve to end up in an old age people’s home,” the pope said.