Pope Francis I during an audience at the Vatican last November. (Andreas Solaro/AFP-Getty Images)
Pope Francis I, the most avuncular, stereotype-challenging pontiff since the recently sainted John XXIII, is coming to America next year. The only known stop on his itinerary is Philadelphia. He's got invites, too, from folks in New York City and Washington, D.C.
But look: This is Pope Francis. He took his name in honor of San Francisco's namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. He's a true multiculturalist. He is a fun guy. Exhibit A: He's allegedly fond of dancing, especially the tango. He's a public transit rider.
He's famously unpretentious and open-minded, a man of simple tastes and lacking in self-importance -- so, OK, maybe not a perfect fit for San Francisco.
Still, to paraphrase a great American, it seems altogether fitting and proper that he should add a West Coast leg to his trip and drop in for a visit. Pope Francis, you'd love it here. And speaking for the mayor and everyone else responsible for the actual logistics, we'd love to have you.
If the pontiff is on the fence about coming out to the coast, here are eight reasons why he should do it:
Baseball: The pontiff will probably hit town in late September. He's a sports fan (a soccer partisan, mostly). The only game in town: The Giants will visit the A's Sept. 25-27. We think PF1 might be invited to throw out the first pitch. Then, maybe after a beer and a Coliseum dog, he could pay the favor back by performing a miracle and getting the A's a new ballpark.
The Sharing Economy: Hotels in San Francisco are pricey, and the killer is that they're not even in the best neighborhoods for a pope to hang out. Airbnb or HomeAway to the rescue! We're sure Francis could find a nice view unit on Potrero Hill or Pacific Heights for a song (or hymn of his choice). Someone ought to warn the pontiff ahead of time that this kind of "sharing" involves cash upfront.
Bridges and Other Scenery: Pope John Paul II, our last papal visitor, reportedly said the Golden Gate Bridge "rocked my world." But he never got to see the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which, barring any more construction issues, will still be standing during PF1's proposed visit next September.
Google Buses: PF1 is reportedly a fan of public transit, but we've got something even better: Google buses. Francis -- bring your WiFi-enabled iPad for maximum productivity. If you're lucky, someone will save you a window seat so you can see the bus protesters close-up.
People: And speaking of protesters -- well, a word of explanation for the pontiff about the people he might see carrying signs on the streets. Most of them are folks who say they're being pushed out of the city of St. Francis -- through a combination of high housing prices, low wages, even short-term rental conversions like the Airbnb digs we suggested. San Francisco is famous for its diversity, if not always for its tolerance. Our advice would be to visit while some semblance of that diversity is intact -- things here are changing fast.
Hang Out With the Archbishop: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Pope Francis surprised the world last year with that pronouncement, which on the surface anyway appears diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church's general hostility toward same-sex marriage and gays and lesbians in the church. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is one of the church's leading opponents of same-sex marriage. We wonder if PF1 would be inclined to deliver that "who am I to judge?" message directly to the archbishop.