Goodreads: Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy
As a young teenager in Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio hears a call to the priesthood, but he cannot imagine that this is the start of a journey will take him all the way to the Vatican.
Pope Francis has taken the world by storm ever since his election in March of 2013, so it only seems fitting that he should feature in his own manga. The book is published by Manga Hero, which seems to specialize in producing Catholic stories in manga form–so far Judith, Paul, and Pope Benedict XVI have all appeared as protagonists. Though written from a Catholic perspective, the story possesses appeal for a wider audience, introducing readers to the life of one of the world’s currently most popular figures.
Though quite short, the book contains a nice arc, following Jorge Bergoglio from his early days crushing on a girl through his vocation to the priesthood and to the early days of his papacy. Perhaps the events most interesting to readers will be the depiction of Argentina’s Dirty War (a focus of the media immediately after Francis’s election) and the depiction of Francis’s signature approach to the papacy (the famous paying of the hotel bill, the request for silent prayer when he first appeared on the balcony–the moments anyone who follows the news will remember). Quotes from Bergoglio/Pope Francis appear throughout, allowing readers a glimpse into his mind as he navigates dangerous political waters while trying to care for his flock, tackles indifference to the poor and suffering, and attempts to discern God’s will for his own life.
Some who want to learn about the pope may want to know whether this book is “preachy” or has a Catholic “slant”. It is a book about a Catholic figure written by Catholics and, as such, depicts a Catholic man applying Catholic teaching in his own life. Bergoglio is shown praying to God, giving homilies, and generally living out the Catholic faith. I do not think any of this is done in a “preachy” way but rather just shows what the man was actually doing in his life. It would be difficult to write the biography of a Catholic priest in any other way. Whether a “slant” exists is something that readers may differ upon. I did notice that the book takes great care to quote Bergoglio preaching on matters such as abortion, presumably as a response to the media’s continued fascination with whether the pope will change Church doctrine. I cannot, however, comment on the depiction of the Dirty War (which I suspect would be the subject of most controversy for readers) as I do not know much about it.
And that is one of my complaints about the book. The story simply does not contain enough detail for readers to follow along in a fully informed and engaged manner. I managed well enough, having a rudimentary knowledge of the pope’s background and having followed the news stories after his election. However, when the story turned toward events with which I was less familiar, I felt lost and confused. What exactly is the is Dirty War and what was happening? Priests were being targeted–I got that much–but which ones and why? I read this book and I still do not know.
Aside from the lack of detail, my only other complaint is that, since the book is marketed as manga, I expected it to read “backwards” and accordingly flipped to the back of the book only to find myself staring at the end advertisements. It is a minor thing, but I am sure there are readers of manga out there who would want to know! I would like to see future releases from Manga Hero in the expected format. (What? I would totally read another manga about a pope.)
Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy is a fun, quick introduction to the life of the current pope. Though I would have liked to see more detail in the story, I still learned a little more than I had known previously, particularly through the quotes provided–it is fascinating to hear about the pope through his own words. Dare we hope for an entire manga line just for popes?