Despite all of the problems in the world, it is becoming a much better place. I would argue that we are moving from mere tolerance to acceptance and even to love for our sisters and brothers. Some of the greatest examples of this have come from the world leader who represents one of the most slow moving, archaic institutions in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air. He has offended many, but he has also demonstrated that a good leader does not try to win popularity contests, a good leader tries to do the right thing.
Recently a Spaniard named Diego Neria Lajarraga was invited to the Vatican by Pope Francis. Lajarraga is a lifelong Catholic from a very Catholic country. Due to being transgendered, he was often ostracized, being called by one clergy member, "the devil's daughter". Yet Lajarraga had the courage to contact Pope Francis, and was subsequently invited to Rome by the Pope himself. During their meeting when he asked the Francis whether there was "a corner of the house of God" for someone like him, the leader of the Catholic Church simply embraced him.
This is not the first time Francis has done something like this. Gay clergy, though numerous, have often been marginalized by the Church. When asked his feelings on the issue in 2013, Francis replied, "If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?" Later the same year, he stated that all gays and lesbians should "be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity."
At the same time, Francis has dealt firmly with criminals in the Church. He has taken a stand against corruption and waste, which is no small task in an institution that is over 2,000 years old. He has also dealt openly and honestly with Church child abuse issues, a scandal that has festered far too long. This demonstrates that though he is a kind man, Francis is also very strong, and he is willing to be tough when he needs to be tough.
What makes Francis a great world leader is that he demonstrates what a true leader is. He has a clear vision of what a better world looks like and he works every day to achieve that. Many may not agree with him, and it is their right to voice objection, but it is in working through our disagreements with profound respect for one another that we build a better world for everyone. Francis has only been pope for two years, so it will take time to see where his leadership is taking the Catholic Church. Regardless of how one feels about this ancient and very traditional institution, one thing is very clear, Pope Francis has it moving in the right direction and has earned his place on the world stage. He is a model of strength and a listening spirit, a person who understands the importance of working together for good.
We live in a time of religious differences and even violent extremism, but Francis's example of love for each other, tempered with integrity and courage, inspires us to live the same way. This is what is needed to get us through the challenges that lie ahead.