Robert Brock, center, introduces customers to his cardboard cutout of Pope Francis on the floor of the convention center at the World Meeting of Families. Photo courtesy of Peter Martin

'Popeful' T-shirts are printed with a cause

Robert Brock, center, introduces cutomers to his cardboard cutout of Pope Francis on the floor of the convention center at the World Meeting of Families. Photo courtesy of Peter Martin

Robert Brock, center, introduces customers to his cardboard cutout of Pope Francis on the floor of the convention center at the World Meeting of Families. Photo courtesy of Peter Martin


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PHILADELPHIA (RNS) Robert Brock printed over 8,000 T-shirts, drove 1,500 miles, and set up shop at the World Meeting of Families -- all for the sake of one word: "Popeful."

The play on words is trademarked by Brock, a real estate agent from Houston who identifies as Christian. Though Brock is not a Catholic, he has been moved by Francis’ perspectives on wealth and inequality. For Brock, “Popeful” represents the turning of a page for Catholicism and Christianity as a whole.

“Popeful is not strictly about the pope,” Brock said. “It’s about an idea of faith.”

And Brock is putting that faith to work -- 50 percent of the proceeds from his T-shirt sales will go to Catholic charities, including Catholic Charities USA and scholarships for underprivileged students to attend Jesuit schools.

Brock was inspired by Francis’ humble actions in Argentina as archbishop, where he took public transportation, and his rejection of the grand papal apartment in Vatican City for a simple guesthouse.

“Here is a leader that is leading by example, and I think it humbles everybody,” Brock said. “The riches don’t go to the church for the church’s benefit; the riches go to the church for the benefit of the people. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”


READ: What Pope Francis can teach the US Catholic Church about Thomas Merton (COMMENTARY)


Brock sees Francis as a leader for the future in a time when there is increasing conflict within the Catholic Church and within the U.S.

The church has come under fire in recent decades for child sex abuse by priests. Fewer people report practicing their faith but Brock is hopeful Francis represents a new direction for people of faith.

“I don’t believe that the Catholic Church will be perfect,” Brock said. “The Catholic Church has never been perfect throughout history. But I believe that they have a leader who is putting in safeguards for the financial areas of the church, he’s putting in safeguards for the spiritual areas of the church.”

For Brock, the T-shirts are about spreading Francis' message.

“Its not about guilt, it’s not about condemnation, it’s about love, mercy, and kindness,” Brock said.

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

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