On my recent trip to Argentina – Buenos Aires and Iguazu, where they have gorgeous greenery and monumental waterfalls – to do an endnote and plenary session at the Latin American Enneagram conference, I was looking forward to getting insider insight about the enneatype of Pope Francis. He is, after all, from Argentina, and I conjectured there would be people from the Enneagram community there who knew him personally. I was right!
To get right to the answer, almost everyone (99%) said Pope Francis is an Enneagram type 8. Some of the individuals had been with him in person, one person had learned the Enneagram from an Argentinian Enneagram teacher who knew Pope Francis before he was named Pope, and others had observed him in action over many years.
The backstory | Pope Francis
I am reporting what I heard, not what I know first hand. According to Argentinian Enneagramers, Pope Francis transformed into a worldwide leader once he was named as the new Pope. Prior to that, he served as a Jesuit priest, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and then a Cardinal. According to those who either knew him or followed him there, Pope Francis was always a believer in mercy, a fighter for the underdog, a person of high integrity along values of integrity and social justice, and a rebel who challenged the status quo. And that is the person we see today.
But they said that the difference between now and then was that he was, during his time in Buenos Aires, quite frustrated with what he was able to accomplish within the context of his peers. His intention was as strong as was his will, but he was not able to change things very much. As a result, he felt thwarted whenever he tried to make the changes so dear to his value system.
People I spoke with in Argentina said they were as surprised as they were delighted when he was elected to be the Pope. From the time of his election, they saw a man who was able to make the big changes he wanted, challenge the rules and processes by which the Vatican operated, and, at the same time, he maintained his vows of poverty and embraced the downtrodden. He is, according to those more in the know than I, a rebel with a cause who can now make big things happen, with the power and the integrity to sustain this. He is tenacious, has the big picture in mind, and has fully stepped into his authority in ways he was disabled from doing in the past.
Pope Francis and the Enneagram
I was told an interesting backstory about Pope Francis and the Enneagram, one that many people at the conference knew about and that others knew from first hand knowledge. Apparently, Pope Francis has known the Enneagram – not just known about it – for several decades. In the earlier years, he was opposed to its use within the clergy for a very interesting and possibly astute reason. What he said he was seeing was the clergy using the Enneagram for self-development, but that the Enneagram was being utilized as a substitute for the inner work and spiritual practices of the church itself. His concern, as I heard it, was that Pope Francis is a strong proponent of ministering to those in need. His concern was that the Enneagram was potentially taking the clergy into a self-oriented focus and away from the self-reflection practices of the church and, more importantly, the social action orientation in pursuit of social justice.
Hearing this gave me pause for reflection. Although many people use the Enneagram to support social justice initiatives, more often than not – and this goes way beyond the clergy – it is used to understand ourselves and others more than for societal change. I personally am committed to social action through the Enneagram, but how much of my time do I spend doing this?
I use the word “had” not been a proponent of the Enneagram because people in Argentina said that recently, on a papal visit to Brazil, Pope Francis was asked about the Enneagram and, this time, his message was different. He said that it was OK to use the Enneagram as long as the focus of people’s work was on mercy and taking care of those who need it, who are systemically oppressed or disadvantaged.
In this blog, I am merely reporting what I heard, but the sources were strong and the information was consistent. Pope Francis is apparently an Enneagram 8 who is now OK with what we are doing. This is a good thing!
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of five best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: The Enneagram in Business.com. firstname.lastname@example.org