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Power to the papal

It’s great reading something like Forbes’s annual power rankings, because you get article teasers like this: “There are nearly 7.2 billion people on the planet. These are the 72 that matter the most” and puffed-chest pronouncements like this, touting the methodology used in compiling the

annual snapshot of the heads of state, financiers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who truly run the world. The list represents the collective wisdom of top FORBES editors, who consider hundreds of nominees before ranking the planet’s 72 power brokers — one for every 100 million on Earth.

Forbes measures power “along four dimensions”: whether the candidate “has power over lots of people,” the financial resources each candidate controls, whether “the candidate is powerful in multiple spheres,” and whether the candidate “actively uses that power.” By those criteria Vladimir Putin tops this year’s list, with Barack Obama falling to second and Xi Jinping, secretary general of the Communist Party of China, coming in third.

Fourth? Pope Francis, whose title Forbes helpfully lists as “pope.” His “power profile” doesn’t immediately make clear the criteria that helped Francis finish that high. But then here’s another great paragraph, again from the methodology, that sheds some light and includes an interesting juxtaposition:

Pope Francis (No. 4) is the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, or about 1/6th of the world’s population. Michael Duke (No. 10), CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, employs 2.1 million people and is the top private employer on the planet.

Thus, Forbes Dimension Number One: power over lots of people (just like Benedict, who made the top ten in previous years). As for Bill Gates, David Cameron, and Benjamin Netanyahu: all comparative weaklings. The evidence is here.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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I want to know how they decide amongst themselves which 100 million people they get to be the power-broker of (or to?). And does the pope have to sign over some of his 1.2 billion Catholics to someone like Michael Duke, who has room for more minions?

Re: Popes being named powerful


The exact opposite of what Jesus intended. Actually sad that they are so named in Forbes :(

In putting the list together, the editors of Forbes used a highly specialized process very much like the ones used by Commonweal editors in scoring their interview with Pope Francis. Non-pros will never grasp its intricacies. In any list longer than 50 names, the reigning pope must appear along with the reigning president and Carlos Slim. Other names are optional

A lot depends on what you mean by power. I think of it as coercive, the power to fire, fine, imprison or execute others. Or maybe to make the kids go to their room.

Popes used to have that kind of power, but now it's more like influence, the power of persuasion. Yes, they still have a lot of the old power over bishops, priests, and possibly some nuns. Maybe there are a hundred million of them remaining, I'm not sure. Seems like it for bishops.

But the Catholic laity is another matter. Increasingly, they listen politely to what popes say, and then decide for themselves whether it makes sense in their own lives. If they decide no, you can condemn it as independent thinking or backsliding or sin, but it's still no. The current pope seems to get that.

Annoying as it may be, making people use a missal they don't like is not a daunting exercise of power.

Apparently, the NSA agrees with the Forbes editors!

If this is a sample of how Francis plans to wield his "power" - then I am  very encouraged!

(Scroll down to the letter from Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri)

The Pope wants to hear our opinions -- he wants our input on issues in preparation for the Ot. 2014 synod.

I hope the US Bishops don't thwart this and actually do what the letter suggests. 

I don't know if this is exactly pertinent to this blog-stream discussion but I believe the link below goes a long way to explaining the political mystic of Papa Francesco's leadership:

Jorge Bergoglio has that very human touch that inspires hope even in the most jaundice of us.







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