Not many people can be called a "Vaticanista," but John Thavis is one.
For more than 30 years he covered the Vatican and traveled around the world with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Thavis, who has written a book about his experiences called "The Vatican Diaries," recalls his time in Rome, the complicated politics of the Vatican, the surprise resignation of Benedict and the fledgling tenure of Pope Francis.
A Minnesota native, Thavis is back in the state after retiring as bureau chief for the Catholic News Service.
THE TAKEAWAY: "How very little a pope has to do to be revolutionary in this day and age"
Thavis told Tom Weber that the new pope had made "quite an impact. He's in the news, which is good for the Catholic Church. And he's in the news in a good way.
"There's a honeymoon period for any pope, but this pope in particular has impressed people because he has enunciated a new vision of being pope and a new vision for the Catholic Church. And the way he's put it is that he wants a church that is less self-referencing, less involved with its own internal problems or issues, less involved with its own theology, and a church that is more involved in the daily lives of real people.
"Well, that's kind of a revolutionary statement, especially coming after eight years of Pope Benedict, where we had the church shoring up the base and looking at its own internal identity. Now we have a pope saying the church has to be out on what he calls the outskirts of humanity, in other words with the real people, and practicing what it preaches.
"Pope Benedict said these things, but in the eyes of the world didn't really show them in his own life. Whereas Pope Francis immediately showed them, by moving out of the Apostolic Palace, for example. He's living in a modest guest room. By going to wash the feet of 12 inmates instead of 12 priests on Holy Thursday. That's a very symbolic and important move. And he's announced that he's going to reform the Roman Curia, which is the Vatican bureaucracy, and he's named eight cardinals to do it, seven of whom are not from the Vatican. All this is new, and all this is actually quite impressive if you've followed Vatican news over the last few decades.
"Some of these things that he's done have been very small and symbolic ... it shows how very little a pope has to do to be revolutionary in this day and age, actually. He pays his hotel bill, he rides on the bus with some cardinals. We have not seen big policy decisions. As always at the Vatican, there may be a revolution going on, but it's in slow motion. It's hard to tell. ...
"I think probably Pope Francis would like to do things at a faster pace, but I think he also realizes that right now he's navigating these waters pretty much alone. He is an outsider in the Roman Curia, in the Vatican. And he needs first of all to get a team together that can help him do it."
READ MORE ON THAVIS AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH:
• Book pick: "The Vatican Diaries" by John Thavis
Tom Weber's book pick this week is "The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church." Weber says he was fascinated by Thavis' tales of his years in Rome covering the pope and the men who fill the corridors of power in the headquarters of the Catholic Church. (MPR)
• Inside "The Vatican Diaries"
Thavis always had a hunch Pope Benedict XVI would retire. But he had no idea it would coincide with the release of his book, "Vatican Diaries," which was published on Feb. 21. "I'd like to say I had planned it that way," he said. "But it was just a happy coincidence." (The Daily Beast)
• Pope Francis, in His Own Words, on the Issues
Before he became pope, Francis spoke his mind about many of the most sensitive topics the Roman Catholic Church faces today. (ABC News)
• Pope Francis reaffirms Vatican censure of "radical feminist" nuns
The Vatican's recent crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization that represents 80 percent of nuns in the United States. (Salon)
• Minister with constant joy, Pope Francis counsels new priests
Pope Francis ordained 10 men as priests this morning, reminding them that they should carry out their ministry with "constant joy and genuine love." (Catholic News Agency)
• Minnesotan, retired Vatican reporter on pope's retirement
The Daily Circuit spoke with Thavis in February as the pope prepared to step down. (MPR)