Pope's success is bigger than politics

President Obama speaks with Pope Francis during a meeting in Rome on 27 march, 2014. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A presidential visit spurs talk of the pope's popularity boom

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

President Barack Obama's visit with Pope Francis on Thursday has pundits speculating on what the meeting means and waxing about the popular pontiff's first year on the job.

The Washington Post's Michael Gerson says the politics-first focus of the media on Mr Obama's papal visit is "absurd".

"Catholic teaching stands in judgment of both ideological sides in U.S. politics, as one would expect of a faith that combines moral traditionalism with a belief in social justice," he says.

He pivots to look at where the Church was a year ago, and how much has changed:

A year ago, the prevailing narrative about the Catholic Church could hardly have been worse - paedophile priests, financial misdeeds, the arrest of the pope's butler, for goodness' sake. The Holy Spirit seemed to be on an extended vacation.

Now, he writes, Francis has changed public perception by combining "traditional moral teachings with a scandalous belief that people are ultimately more important than rules".

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Media captionThe BBC's Alan Johnston describes the relaxed atmosphere at the meeting

The American Prospect's Molly Worthen agrees that the pope's emphasis on mercy and humanity is part of the explanation for his success:

The reason is not because they believe he will settle questions that have troubled the church for generations. Rather, his example -his decision to wash the feet not of fellow priests but of juvenile inmates on Holy Thursday; his invitation to homeless men to join him on his birthday - reminds many Catholics of what the church means to them on a daily basis and what they hope it means to the world.

Although the pope has not altered Church policy on hot-button social issues, she writes, he has moved away from the confrontational style of his predecessor. This new attitude could appeal to Americans who are religious but aren't attracted to the US brand of fundamentalist evangelicalism.

"Francis offers a reference point that resonates with Christians disillusioned with the grandstanding of the religious right and the confrontations of the culture wars," she writes.


The next Ukraine? - It's time to once again play the "where is the next Ukraine?" game. For former Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Jorge Castaneda, the answer is Venezuela. "Recent events in Venezuela imply as many perils and unforeseen, perverse consequences as in Ukraine," he says. The international community and Latin American democracies need to pay more attention.


Rome's promise of prosperity - Italian support for Tunisia could lead to a complete turnaround in the region, writes Giovanni Faleg for the American Interest. The country's technocratic leaders are looking for economic backing and trade partners, he says, and Rome could be the best option available.

"In the ruthless game of international politics, leaps of faith are quite uncommon, and perhaps even foolhardy," he writes. "Yet economic growth and democratic governance in the Maghreb will improve the lives of millions of young Arabs, marking perhaps a turning point in the region's history."


The other refugees - Following a report from Canada's parliament on the state of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Jonathan Tobin writes that the only way to find peace between Israel and Palestine is to acknowledge that there are a competing perspectives among refugees.

"Not until they realise that they were not the only ones who suffered and that the war that led to their dispossession was the result of their own unwillingness to compromise and share the land will the Palestinians be prepared to accept the current compromise that has been on the table from Israel for many years, and finally move on," he says.


Don't be fooled by election promises - "Election manifestos of political parties tend to promise all things to all people," write the editors of the Hindu. Heading into the elections in India, there are a lot of promises being made. But India shouldn't be duped by politicians making the same promises that they failed to fulfil in the last election.

"Unlike the principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the energetic new party, the AAP, the Congress would be judged by its performance in government in the last decade, and not by the promises it holds out," they write. "The party's record is enough to take the shine off many of the promises listed in the manifesto."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

The media in Egypt appear to be wholeheartedly behind former Defence Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he begins his campaign for president, but elsewhere not every regional commentator is impressed.

"In the end, the field marshal did not surprise anyone when he declared his candidacy for president, this is because his ambition became clear in the first quarter of an hour after his military coup, despite affirmations to the contrary." - Subhi Hudaydi in pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

"It is exciting that both [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and al-Sisi came from the intelligence services. This is the reason why both of them are cunning... Al-Sisi will achieve for Egypt and the Arabs what Putin has achieved for Russia." - Muhammad Yaghi in Palestinian Al-Ayyam.

"Amid a climate of expectations that Sisi will win the contest, there are also fears the election won't help Egypt's reputation, damaged by security tension and socio-economic problems... One person is destined to win, but unless millions of people can vote freely, respect the result and then witness authentic reform and resurgence, it will be a hollow election." - Editorial in Lebanon's Daily Star.

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