I've been an agnostic since the age of ten, eventually persuaded by modern physics to declare myself an atheist; but the election of Pope Francis commanded my attention - as did that of John XXIII in the seventies. (In fact, I see Francis as taking John's papacy much further, after interim Popes failed to do so.)
Today I found myself watching the Pope's first American mass in Washington, noting how tired he seemed after a long day of set pieces interspersed with rides in the Popemobile through adoring crowds. I'm really not one for religious ceremonies of any stripe, but for some reason, this spectacle had me riveted. After about an hour I began to realize why: the dignity and solemnity of the ritual implicitly showed up the vulgarity and ugliness that emanates from the Republican front runner, Donald Trump who has been so much on our screens of late.
The United States is at a crossroads: to the right is the Donald, who disparages and threatens, showing off his ignorance, to the left is Francis, who exudes warmth and optimism, and asks is to save each other and the planet.