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Saturday, October 22, 2016

By Alvise Armellini

VATICAN CITY — The leader of the Catholic Church is “a normal person,” Pope Francis insisted in an interview published Wednesday, in which he said he was offended by media portrayals of him as “some kind of Superman.”

Since his election a year ago, Francis’ popularity has skyrocketed. He is seen as humble, unorthodox, reform-oriented and media-savvy, and has attracted almost universally flattering headlines — even from unlikely publications such as Rolling Stone.

“I don’t like ideological interpretations, a certain mythology of Pope Francis,” he told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “To paint the pope as some kind of Superman, some kind of a star, I think it is offensive,” he added.

“The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps peacefully and has friends like everybody else. A normal person,” Francis insisted.

Despite his protestations, Francis did appreciate graffiti that appeared on the walls near the Vatican, representing him as a flying superhero. His account retweeted the image in January, and last week he met the artist who drew it.

Wednesday’s was the third media interview Francis has given as a pope, coming days before the one-year anniversary of his March 13, 2013, appointment. He previously spoke to La Repubblica, another Italian daily, and to Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica.

Francis was promoted to the papacy after his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, became the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years.

Noting that retired bishops did not exist until the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s but have now become “an institution,” Francis said “the same must happen” with retired popes.

“Benedict is the first, but maybe there will be others,” he said.