Book Notes: Pope Francis Takes the Bus



The world has been fascinated with Pope Francis since his election in 2013. His love for the poor, his down-to-earth demeanor, and his folksy homiletic style are attractive to a world looking for authenticity.

Pope Francis Takes the Bus and Other Unexpected Stories, written by Rosario Carello, is filled with stories that show this very side of Pope Francis. Many of the stories are from his days before he was elected to the Chair of Peter, including his insistence on using public transportation (even as a cardinal), his devotion to both the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, and his tendency to make personal phone calls to people who have written to him. The stories are folksy and sweet, and each one holds a lesson for the reader.

The book was originally published in Italian when Pope Francis was still rather new to the pontificate, and its setup is a list of topics from A to Z (sort of…there’s no X or Z). The stories were fun to read, and they’re quick as well. There’s no need to read the book in order, really, because the stories are all stand-alone tales that can be picked up and put down at the convenience of the reader.

I did enjoy the book, though the style was a little more informal than I was expecting, and the stories sometimes feel as if they simply stop without a clear ending. Overall, I think the book is a neat way to humanize our pope and to show his humility. (Again and again in the stories, we encounter Pope Francis – or Father Bergoglio, as he has preferred to be referred to (even as cardinal) – demonstrating kindness and humility, a love for the poor and concern for everyone’s spiritual welfare, humor and gravity… This is an opportunity to really get to know how Pope Francis ticks.

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©2017 Christine Johnson
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About Author

Christine Johnson has been married to Nathan since 1993 and has two daughters whom she homeschools. They live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, where she tries to fit in as a transplanted Yank. She blogs at Domestic Vocation about her life as a wife, mother, homeschooler, and Lay Dominican.


  1. “Again and again in the stories, we encounter Pope Francis – or Father Bergoglio, as he has preferred to be referred to (even as cardinal).”

    Sounds cozy, but too much familiarity breeds contempt. People need leadership. Strong leadership.

    It is right for things used for specific purposes to be set apart. Pope Francis may want to be called “Father” Bergoglio, but it is not humility that spurs a man to shun the title that is his by right and the people’s by necessity. We need leadership, not pals.

    A father is a father, not a buddy, not one of the kids with no greater authority than anyone in the group. Does this mean he uses his position to lord it over the flock? No. But the pretense of associating a rightful title and dignity of office with lording-it-over others is an effective tool to remove lawful authority.

    I find, as a home schooling mother, that this perverse push to level all hierarchy under the auspices of touchy-feely niceness tends, over time, to destroy the family unit. It most certainly undermines the strength of lawful authority, put there precisely for protection of the flock.

    The Pope taking the bus translates, in reality, to greater expense and concern for those who must protect him… as their “duty” requires.

    • Ann,

      I can appreciate your desire for strong leadership, and I do believe that Pope Francis leads. He consistently holds up Church teaching, but he does so with a large dose of mercy, which is what Christ calls us to. I certainly don’t believe that Pope Benedict lorded his title over others (even as he made use of all of the various pomp and traditional things associated with the papacy – down to the red loafers) any more than I believe that St. John Paul II and Pope Francis want nothing more than to be buddies just because they eschew some of the less important visual symbols and much of the status of being the pope.

      I think that Pope Francis is evangelizing and reaching out to people who need a gentler touch. I think his style of leadership is one that we aren’t used to. He no longer takes public transportation, as was his custom as a bishop and cardinal, but he seeks more communion with the poor than some popes have sought in the past. He clearly cannot live like the Missionaries of Charity, but he seems to strive to live as simply as his office will allow for. Honestly, I have to admit that it’s a challenge for me to accept some of what he says, not because I think he’s wrong, but because it requires me to shift my thinking and my actions – and that makes me uncomfortable.

      I recommend the book because it gives us insight into his papacy by relaying stories of his upbringing, his priesthood, and his time as a bishop. For those of us who have been uncomfortable with him for various reasons, it sheds light and can help us see his reasoning and even the wisdom behind some of his actions.

      God bless you.