Pope Francis’s popularity as a good leader and Christian is spilling over onto BYU campus as professors and students recognize the good he is doing in the world.
The BYU Newman Club, a club for Catholic students and friends at BYU, is especially fond of the pontiff.
“I’m a big fan of the guy,” said William King, president of the Newman Club. “People at BYU and everywhere can learn a lot from his example and what he’s teaching.”
Part of that example is showing that people from different faiths can get along well together.
King said sometimes interactions between different religions can develop into “us against them” discussions. As a Catholic attending school at BYU, King said “there’s more that we agree on than disagree.”
Alex Baugh, a professor in BYU’s Church History Department, agrees that Pope Francis is interested in building interfaith relationships.
“He desires to extend the arm of Christian friendship to other religions,” Baugh said. “He’s willing to go outside the Vatican to visit religious leaders and political leaders.”
Pope Francis recently visited the Middle East and spent time with other religious leaders there.
“He wanted to talk to the people that were there even though they’re not Catholic,” said Joy Saline, a pre-management student at BYU. “I thought that was really cool.”
Saline said she admired the pope for being “more friendly to other religions.”
Another admirable focus of Pope Francis’s ministry is his care for the poor.
“The main thing that you should be worried about is helping others,” King said. This is the message he felt Francis is trying to teach.
Baugh said the pope and President Thomas S. Monson are similar in this regard.
“The hallmark of (President Monson’s) entire life has been a focus on the poor, the needy and the downtrodden,” Baugh said. “I think that it’s interesting that they both have that focus in their ministry.”
Although most of the BYU community is LDS, many community members show support for Pope Francis.
“The important thing is that we recognize the incredible good that other Christian religions exemplify,” Baugh said. “Latter-day Saints don’t have a corner on goodness.”
Baugh said Pope Francis demonstrates Christlike attributes.
“He will do a great deal of good and have a great influence in his time as pope,” Baugh said. “Anything good that he does, we ought to applaud as Latter-day Saints.”