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How Pope Francis became the 'People's Pope' in 2015

Throughout his travels this year, Pope Francis reached out to and shared touching moments with communities in need.
Pope Francis makes his way to the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sept. 26, 2015. (Photo by Eric Thayer/The New York Times/Pool/AP)
Pope Francis makes his way to the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sept. 26, 2015.

Pope Francis is known for being a different kind of pope. He has called for equal pay for women, advocated for forgiveness for women who have received abortions and couples that have been divorced or remarried, and even pushed world leaders to address climate change.

Over the last year, he has also made efforts to interact with different people and speak up for their needs. He has met with members of the LGBT community, people with disabilities, prisoners and others.

While he has not accepted same-sex marriage and is still criticized for the treatment of women in the Catholic Church and the handling of the sex scandal, Francis has continued his strides to be the “People’s Pope.”

Here's why he has earned that title:

Pope Francis in virtual chat: ‘I’m a dinosaur.’

Pope Francis held an Internet “Hangout” with children who have disabilities in the United States, Argentina, India and Spain. The children were able to ask the pontiff questions and tell him about their hopes for the future. Read more here.

He had lunch with gay, transgender inmates.

When the pope had lunch with about 90 prisoners of a detention center near Naples, Italy, he did not exclude gay and transgender inmates. Francis also visited Scampia, an extremely poor neighborhood dominated by the mafia. He encouraged people to try to resist exploitation. Read more here.

He met with a gay rights activist.

The pontiff arranged to meet with a gay rights activist during his visit to Paraguay, becoming the first pope to publicly engage with LGBT activists. While he still believes that marriage is defined as being only between a man and woman, Francis has actively tried to be more welcoming to the LGBT community. Read more here.  

In Bolivia, he made a plea for man and nature.

During his visit to Bolivia, Francis met with members of the World Meeting of Popular Movements, who are people from the margins of society. Speaking specifically to the Native Americans, the pope apologized for the actions of the Conquistadors and the church’s role in exploiting them. Read more here.

He took selfies with students in the U.S.

Francis made an effort to engage with the crowds that gathered in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia during his visits. He even took selfies with some students. Watch here.

Francis met with a gay couple while in U.S.

The pope again showed his openness to the LGBT community by meeting with a gay couple while in Washington, D.C. The next day, he also met with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who became known for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the pontiff did not publicly speak about either meeting. Read more here.

He spoke at a Ground Zero prayer service.

Francis spoke at an interfaith prayer service at Ground Zero during his trip to New York. He also met with families at the World Trade memorial who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Watch here.

As the first Latino pope, he brought hope to Spanish Harlem.

While in New York City, the pope made a special visit to East Harlem to meet with a group of Catholic students and members of the Spanish Harlem community. The visit was remarkable for a community troubled with poverty and violence. Read more here.

Homeless man on the pope: ‘You know you are not alone.’

The pope attended a lunch with some of New York’s homeless population, blessing the meal and briefly interacting with the group. Read more here.

He stopped to bless children.

Francis blessed a number of children at each of his stops, including a girl in a wheelchair. He also halted his motorcade in Philadelphia when he noticed a boy with a disability behind the barricades. He went out of his way to bless the boy and his parents before leaving. Watch here.

Pope to prisoners: I share your plight.

Francis visited inmates of a correctional facility in Philadelphia to deliver a message of solidarity and hope. Watch here.

Pope meets with church sex abuse victims

The pontiff made a speech to survivors of sexual abuse by members of the church. He made the promise that everyone who had a role in the scandal will be held accountable. At the same time, however, Francis has been criticized for not carrying out that promise. Watch here.