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Photogenic: Father Michael Collins published a portrait book ahead of Pope Francis’s New York visit.
DK Publishing

Father Michael Collins is an Irish Catholic priest, scholar, and author who has written books about several popes and the history of the Vatican. His latest book, “Pope Francis: A Photographic Guide to the People’s Pope” is a visual chronicle of Francis’ papal career, made in collaboration Rodolfo Felici, a papal photographer.

To coincide with His Holiness’ visit to New York, we talked with Father Collins about some of the history behind the Vatican and his thoughts on the Pontifex Maximus.

Harry MacCormack: Have you met Pope Francis before?

Father Michael Collins: No. I’ve been in his presence several times but he’s a very private person, so it can be difficult to speak with him directly.

HM: What do you think of Pope Francis?

CM: I like him, he’s very spontaneous. I think he likes to just do things. For example, he recently needed new glasses, and normally the optometrist comes to the Vatican, but instead he said “Oh, no, I’ll come to you.” He got into his Ford Focus and drove to get new lenses, because he liked his frame, and then took out his wallet and insisted on paying.

HM: Do you think his spontaneous attitude is going to have an impact on his visit to New York?

CM: Absolutely, he normally doesn’t take a whole lot of security with him, when he drives around, he normally only has two men on motorcycles with him. The FBI is responsible for his security while he’s here and I know they pulled him aside, to talk about how its not only his life that they have to worry about, but the men protecting him, and he understands, so it’s going to be different from when he is in the Vatican.

HM: Do you have a favorite pope?

CM: I do. I am very partial to John Paul II. I first met him when I was 16. I got to meet him several times over the course of my life. He was a brilliant man. Sometimes I think people forget so quickly. I think Francis has everyone talking, which is good, but each Pope, Francis included, feel like the flavor of the week, which is a shame.

Pope Francis: A Photographic Portrait of the People’s Pope” is available for purchase at all major bookstores and through amazon.com. $25.

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at hmaccormack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.

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