Facing reality: popes have ordinary moments, too

UPDATED Jan. 16: The animated GIF is comprised of a dozen or more still photo frames shot within about 4 seconds. Each was cropped exactly the same. One of these frames is the featured photo. Neither the GIF nor the main photo were taken from video.

VATICAN CITY — Photographers covering the Vatican are witnesses to both the grandeur and ordinariness of the events that unfold here.

In a display of the ordinary, today I shot this unusual frame of Pope Francis as he rubbed his face.


Pope Francis’ expression invites many captions, but he was really just rubbing his face. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He had just finished delivering his blessing at the end of his catechesis at the Wednesday general audience. The 77-year-old pope first rubbed his eyes, then his face. It was essentially the pope’s four seconds of down time before spending the next hour and a half greeting bishops, people with disabilities and many others.


An animated GIF of Pope Francis taking a breather at the end of his catechesis. (CNS photos/Paul Haring)

My colleagues and I frequently see the pope doing ordinary human things: blowing his nose, taking a drink of water, scratching his face, etc…. We’ll sometimes photograph these moments but usually don’t use them. There is a certain sense of decorum among us — about what is appropriate for public consumption and what should be kept private.

In this case, the photo seemed to convey just how tiring it is to lead an audience and greet so many people outside in winter weather for two and a half hours.

My colleagues at the Rome bureau liked the photo because it showed a certain vulnerability. What do you think?

About Paul Haring

CNS Staff Photographer
This entry was posted in CNS, Vatican. Bookmark the permalink.

77 Responses to Facing reality: popes have ordinary moments, too

  1. Victoria says:

    I loved the photo……….it showed exactly what you said in your last sentence…….a certain sense of vulnerability!!! He is a human being, not God and I truly believe he would be the first to state that fact! I love Pope Francis because he is such a human being and takes great pride in it and the fact that as humans, we have so much access to help and resources to make this world a better place if only we made the commitment to do so! His work is tiring but he performs it with great love of humanity and love for his God and His will for our Blessed Church Father!!!

  2. Narin says:

    Afterall he is a human being just like all of us.

  3. Jeffrey Wiliam Cotnoir says:

    …oh to have those holy and venerable hands touch my own face. Even he must feel the power and presence of the Lord in his own hands.

  4. Given today’s generation of folks who like to make memes, I think this one should have never come out. Yes, we all do ordinary things. The Pope is human! Why do we need to remember him wiping his face?

  5. Theo says:

    Sometimes, most of us dont think these persons do ordinary things that we do, its really ‘different’ to experience. @Jeff, I can’t bt agree with you on those hands.

  6. Artrina says:

    I love seeing this! It shows another way he understands us, that he is one of us in some ways.

  7. Suzanne says:

    Don’t we get a little sleepy sometimes…I mean yah..come on…it was a break…he’s human!

  8. freebirdsings says:

    It helps non-Catholics and some Catholics, realizing we KNOW the pope is just a human being. No, we don’t think he’s inexhaustible God!

  9. Dawn says:

    I love this! It’s nice to get to see the “humaness” of someone so highly respected. It brings him closer to his people, I believe. God Bless Pope Francis now and forever!

  10. Sylvia A Gutierrez says:

    To me, it shows that he is not a super human being. He is one of us and he tires, he stresses, he grows weary. God bless our Pope and give him the strength that he needs. Amen.

  11. Jessica Knight says:

    Something about it is endearing. .

  12. Rachel says:

    I was just thinking how I would feel if me rubbing my face was blog worthy.

  13. You can see how easily a photo can be used out of context, and just as easily selected from a video. I would love to hear what the Holy Father would caption the photo!

  14. Greg says:

    Excellent shot, Paul! Meanwhile, do you know if the pope uses hand sanitizer before, during and/or after shaking those many hands following his general audience? I’m sure doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals around the globe would appreciate a picture of the pope exercising proper hygiene by applying Purell to his palms, especially during the height of flu and cold season.

  15. Minerva Dennis says:

    I love his humbleness

  16. ~JUcinéa Ioras Corrêa says:

    Gostei da foto, nos mostra como ele é simples e normal como ele mesmo disse quando veio ao Brasil, carregando sua própria maleta de mão. Ele faz coisas simples mas mesmo assim nos mostra a sua grandeza pela FÈ, Humildade, Carinho e Amor.

  17. Sylvia Cornhoff says:

    I liked that you showed him as human. I cannot imagine what a tiring, cold and long time in the cold he endures. I think he has a very difficult job, but is doing a great service to all people in Christ’ name.

  18. He is a human being like us… Love him..

  19. Kevin Phalen says:

    I love it. It’s refreshing to see the pope in a “human moment”. I’m sure Jesus did the same thing many times. It helps us remember that the pope is one of us and feels hungry, tired, sad and happy. He’s not a wind-up puppet. Keep these special glimpses coming.

  20. JoAnn Maples says:

    I love Pope Francis and this shows his humanity. We all feel tired at times after working. God bless him and strengthen him for the work ahead of him.

  21. K Crosas says:

    Love seeing the Pope. I cannot imagine how exhausted he must be with the long days and constant bombardment of people. He handles it with Grace and humility

  22. Jane Laurent says:

    I can just imagine that Jesus had these moments too!

  23. Wanda Mae Hill says:

    Praise the Lord, thru our wonderful Pope Francis! God Bless one and all. Thank you Lord, Jesus, Pope Francis. He is strong, wise, patient and LOVING!! We support you all the way!

  24. Theresa Huang says:

    I pray every morning for Pope Pa because I couldn’t imagine how I would feel to live on his schedule although I am 20 years younger than he is. It is of great love to consume oneself, to fulfill his mission as Pope, .. It is a life without oneself – a sacrifice in my eyes. I am glad this picture serves to remind us of this.

  25. tiring yap…….that is why he kept on asking that we all pray for him….he needs it….

  26. Mary Beitz says:

    I agree with the statement regarding Pope Francis’s vulnerability. The word that comes to mind is transparency…what we see is his humanity! Thank you for sharing this picture!

  27. ann hill says:

    I noticed the dark circles under his eyes a sure sign of tiredness..God bless him

  28. Lucia Zelaya says:


  29. Kay Larsen says:

    I seem to remember that every time someone snapped a photo of Pope Benedict looking tired, there was great concern about his frailness. When John Paul II looked or acted tired, people started carping about how the job was too much for him and he ought to consider resigning. This pope looks tired and he is “just human”.

  30. trured73 says:

    I love it. It reminds me of the times when I was young and would ask about the everyday things that Jesus himself most certainly did but no one ever recorded because it was mundane. Pope Francis has certainly brought me back to those innocent memories and the wide-eyed awe with which I once looked at the world. This picture makes me smile.

  31. Hotsy Totsy says:

    Please! More of him being human! Someone before me said pictures like this help non-Catholics (and we Catholics!) catch on that we understand he’s not God. Blowing his nose, well no. But him just looking around while being driven somewhere, or flying, or praying, or heck! just waiting.

  32. Victoria says:

    Paul Harding, thank you for publishing my comment and especially writing such a wonderful piece on a truly inspiring and compassionate man………….BTW, I love in my confirm email how you greet people with “HOWDY”………..you must have some Southern or Mid-western blood in you!!! AMEN!! God Bless You Paul! And God Bless our wonderful Pope Francis!

  33. Virginia Taurasi says:

    You look tired your Holiness. You need to go to bed earlier and try to rest during the day. Too much work for you.

  34. Carolyn says:

    I find it to be glamourous as usual and then again so is he. Glory be to God. Amen.

  35. Maria says:

    Seeing this reminded me to pray for our beloved Pope. His vocation is beyond demanding physically, emotionally and spiritually. God bless you Pope Francis!

  36. Rose says:

    Love it!!! Finally a pope that shows expression. He is one of us, HE is Christ walking among us.. Bless the pope and those who don’t believe, thank you PAPA FRANCESCO for being you.

  37. gen says:

    adorable. thank you for taking and sharing this moment!

  38. Jeanne Frey says:

    I loved the whole video of our Blessed Pope Francis, especally the last frames which show his smile and grace and the peace that shiines within. GOD Bless him and how blessed are we to have him in our lives.

  39. IBL says:

    Missing Pope Benedict ……. He was True to His Faith….

  40. boa noite eu vejo como um espelho a nossa frente que podemos sempre carregar conosco, e sempre olhar e aproveitar, pois ele esta sempre com luz , acesa para nós clarear a cada um de nós e sempre a dar grande acolhimento para os necessitados acolhemos também com grande amor é esta é a marca que ficou registrada na JMJ e nós os Brasileiros acolhemos com muito amor e carinho e nos te amamos papa Francisco o senhor é o nosso pastoreiro

  41. jun amora says:

    Macaulay Culkin … later on life as Pope Francis I hahaha. If you didn’t get the drift, watch “Home Alone.” The similarity is uncanny.

  42. Hoda says:

    I love this Pope so much & he’s so adorable,

  43. Annamaria says:

    Love to see the Pope being human. It’s one of his most endearing qualities.

  44. Avila Power says:

    Pope Francis you are such a grace-filled person and full of love for Our Lord, which everyone who sees or reads about you feel drawn to Almighty God. Thank you and God bless you always.

  45. Felicidad Guro says:

    What’s the matter of rubbing of his own face everybody can do rubbing their faces

  46. Sibanda Leona says:

    God bless our Pope Amen.

  47. yovanna says:

    Para mi no son momento ordinarios….Son momentos de grandeza entre el ser humano y Dios…Es la coneccion del trabajo de un hombre al servicio de nuestro altísimo…!!

  48. Joseph Sciame says:

    Of course it shows the humanness of this Holy Father for he is using so much energy in all that he does. A great photo of the man! We need to pray for him and his level of energy.

  49. Linda Garcia says:

    God has blessed us with this wonderful human being.

  50. This Pope is true to the Faith…he lives it as St. Francis did and as Christ did, doing His Father’s work among us all!

  51. God will bless u more our beloved Pope. Thank you for being one of us..Thank you for that simple act of humility and simplicity..

  52. Vivian says:

    Pope Francis is so beautiful; inside and outside; this reminds me of the childlike innocence; and how we are all called to be childlike so as to inherit the kingdom of God. Thanks for sharing the videos. The Priests in my place had a habit of asking the altar servers to keep away the child from coming to them for a blessing close to the Altar; Of late, i see that they all let the little ones go to them; Should have been some teaching from the Pope’s video with the kid who sat on his chair!! Blessings Papa Fransico

  53. wilmar says:

    I really love the pope’s emphasis of our humanhood. it is in our being that we experience God’s mercy.

  54. Bianca says:

    If it is done without disrespect, especially about thos Pope, than it is fine

  55. Binx Bincute says:

    what is the big deal on here?… this photo shows that pope francis is also a man that does ordinary things… please show some respect not only as a catholic leader but of course as a person. Every time you criticize him please think a million times that god is always looking after us… GODBLESS

  56. Veronica Gross, RSM says:

    Pope Francis is so real. He is a breath of fresh air for the Church.

  57. IBL says:

    God Bless Pope Emeritus Benedict !! He did not Destroy the True Mass, like Pope Francis is Doing.. The Very Mass that Our Lord Created while on This Earth.. God Have Mercy on Us All !!! We Must Live in This World But Not Of the World, As St. Francis all the Saints Did !!!!

  58. Stephen Gabriel says:

    The pope is only been ‘Emotional’

  59. Paul Haring says:

    Thanks, Greg, for your question. I’ve never witnessed the pope applying hand sanitizer. I’m certain he has “the smell of sheep” on his hands.

  60. Greg says:

    Good one, Paul! I’d hate to be the last person on the reception line. He/she would be the unlucky recipient of the unholy microbes of the universal church. Suggestion for Purell’s new evangelization ad campaign: “Share the faith! Not the germs!”

  61. opreach says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  62. zgift says:

    Reblogged this on Zechariah's Gift and commented:
    I saw this article and thought to myself…how long would I last if in any given day I only had 4 seconds of down time?

  63. Amusing, give the guy a break!

  64. Huwange says:

    How beautifully natural. Papa belong Yu Mi Fella.

  65. Diane says:

    There’s so much I love about him, he seems so real, just like one of us & this pic is a perfect example of his humanness. There’s something very cute & sweet about him too, like he’s everyone’s Grandpa.

  66. Es nuestro PAPA, NUESTRO, ARGENTINO !!!!!!, es natural, humilde, auténtico, es todo AMOR, sonríe, siente, llora como nosotros, ama, es un ser humano EXTRAORDINARIO., toda Argentina reza por ti !!!!!!! .

  67. maru says:

    el santo papa Francisco es el major regalo q Dios hizo a este perdido mundo q el dinero se apodero de cada ser y llega el q es solo bondad nobleza sencillo en fin tiene esas pequenas cosas q el mundo necesita para aprender a vivir estamos felices los colombianos y el mundo entero de tenerte con nosotros y poder sonar con un major manana

  68. Jenny M says:

    Following this moment to refresh our dear Pope surfaced with a smile not unlike the parent that rises to feed their infant during the night. Though exhausted and tired what loving parent will not smile back at the child that lovingly trusts them. This is how I am certain Pope Francis sees us all…so return the smile.

  69. Karen Wall says:

    He’s is just so cute!

  70. Mulisa Charles says:

    Personally ,I have liked it…so human..like Jesus..He did such things when He took Flesh….

  71. Nyaboke Lilian says:

    Am proud of him. It is very normal to be human. God bless you Dad and give you graces to carry out his mission .Long Live……………..

  72. Diana Beck says:

    Pope Francis is a wonderful, human, role model for all humans! He shows us and tells us how to love others as Jesus has done. God bless Pope Francis!

  73. Ephrem Santos says:

    Paul, Thank you for sharing this picture and for your comments too. … God bless the Pope.

  74. florence says:

    He is like every other human being who has great love and concern for the people. I love him, he is real

  75. Yaya says:

    Papa Francis truly has shown us the benefits of adoration, the rosary, daily Mass…without Christ, he can do nothing, he lacks the strength and graces needed…but with Christ, he can do all things! Amen!

Comments are closed.