Old songs occasionally need to be refreshed with updated verses.

Here’s one: “Old McPope, he had a farm /E-I-E-I-O/ and on that farm he had a cow…a donkey… chickens…ostriches…and rabbits…/E-I-E-I-O!”

Who knew that the Pope had a farm?

Well, he does. Fifteen miles outside of Rome, Castel Gandolfo is a 135-acre plot of Paradise on Earth. It features Roman ruins, breathtaking views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and (of course) a castle.

Since the 1500s, this place has been a summer vacation home for popes. In the 1930s, the Vatican added some bucolic functionality by planting crops and bringing in some farm animals.

Papal Farm at Castel Gandolfo

Papal Farm at Castel Gandolfo/Catholic News Service

And now, Pope Francis, who chose the patron saint of animals as his papal name, has opened the farm to the masses, welcoming us to witness the productive bounty and beauty of nature.

This is no hobby farm, but a sustainable enterprise that delivers a cornucopia of milk, yogurt, veggies, meat, cheese, honey, olive oil, and more to the Vatican every day.

For this pope, however, Castel Gandolfo is also a living metaphor. It personalizes his message that we humans are “stewards, not masters” of nature, and that “access to food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be subject to market speculation.”

He’s been putting the power of his popeship behind religious and governmental policies that promote food justice, provide proper stewardship of natural resources, and combat the causes of climate change — all a part of his overarching call for a moral ethos that rejects “the pride of dominating, possessing, manipulating, exploiting.”

By opening the papal farm to the public, Francis is not only providing a living model of a sustainable food system. He’s also extending his pastoral ideals of humility and openness.

This guy is living up to his growing reputation as the “People’s Pope.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower LowdownOtherWords.org

OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to OtherWords.org. To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.

(Note: Images credited to Getty or Shutterstock are not covered by our Creative Commons license. Please license these separately if you wish to use them.)