Rolling Stone, that arbiter of popular culture, has granted its imprimatur to Pope Francis. It will feature the 77-year-pontiff on the cover of the issue that hits newsstands Friday. Touche! Or as Pope Francis might say, “far out.”

pope francisIn ditching chauffeured limo for battered Ford Focus and Vatican palace for humble guesthouse, Pope Francis has cemented his man of the people bona fides. His empathy for the poor and diseased is unparalleled. One cannot even remotely imagine his predecessor, courtly red-shoe wearing Pope Benedict, hugging the deformed as Pope Francis routinely does.

Rather than bemoan financial pressures on the “poor” church, the Jesuit advocates a church for the poor, putting him well ahead of the current trendy media and political cry of “income inequality.” [That inequality theme is one that President Obama will flog during his State of the Union address later today.]

The liberation theology advocate has revitalized the Catholic Church here, liberating it from the stifling leadership from bishops obsessed with fighting the so-called wars surrounding sexual orientation and female reproductive organs.  

 While Francis remains true to the Church’s ban on abortion and male-only priests (so far), his simple “Who am I to judge?” declaration made to Italy’s Jesuit magazine about gay priests spoke volumes about his support of human rights for all of God’s children.

Rolling Stone cover’s slugs Pope Francis picture with Bob Dylan’s “"The Times, They Are A-Changin'" mantra.

Blessedly they are. Pope Francis is changing the attitude of the Catholic Church for the better.

A friend suggested that we should advance the Jewish wish for a life of 100 years to Francis.

Let’s pray for a Rolling Stone cover encore performance for Pope Francis in 2037. It takes a while to change a 2000-plus year old institution.