NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Time magazine chose Pope Francis this week as it's "person of the year" for 2013, and TheStreet's Joe Deaux asked Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute to describe how the new pope's approach to economic issues may differ from his predecessors.
Both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II achieved impact through their words. "Francis' great gift seems to be his actions," Sirico said, citing the pope's public gestures of compassion and humility. In one instance, the pope embraced a man whose face was severely disfigured.
Sirico said Pope Francis has already spoken out about economic inequality and is likely to continue doing so. But he cautioned that the pope's words should not be misinterpreted.
"I think the question when we're hearing what he says and reading what he says," Sirico said, "we have to be careful that he is not speaking in political, ideological lines. Nor is he prescribing specific policy prescriptions."
The pope is emphasizing "human solidarity," Sirico said. "He quoted Benedict by saying that globalization has brought us to be close, to be neighbors, but not to be brothers." Achieving a sense of fraternity is the goal.
Sirico also thinks the pope intends to clean up the Vatican Bank but that it won't be easy. "I think that's going to be quite tumultuous," Sirico said. "I think that you have two strong tendencies in the Vatican. One is the Italian tendency and the other is a bureaucratic tendency. And when those two come together, you have a mess. That's what you have at the Vatican Bank."
He added that highly professional people are systematically working through the problems. "I think they intend to clean it up," he said.
-- Written by Carla Baranauckas in New York.