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Valentina Napolitano

This article explores the tension between Pope Francis as a ‘trickster’ and as a much-needed reformer of the Catholic Church at large. He is an exemplar of the longue durée of an embodied ‘Atlantic Return’ from the Americas to the ‘heart’ of Catholicism (Rome and the Vatican), with its ambivalent, racialized history. Through the mobilization of material religion, sensuous mediations, and the case of the Lampedusa crosses in particular, I engage with an anthropological analysis of Francis as a Criollo and the first-ever Jesuit pope. Examining Francis’s papacy overlapping racial and ethico-political dimensions, I identify coordinates around which the rhetorical, affective, and charismatic force of Francis as a Criollo has been actualized—between, most crucially, proximity and distance, as well as pastoral versus theological impulses. This article advances an understanding of Francis that emerges from a study of the conjuncture of affective fields, political theology, racialized aesthetics, and mediatic interface.