In September, Pope Francis will make his first papal visit to the United States, stopping in Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Philadelphia. As part of the buildup to the event, National Geographic will release Pope Francis and the New Vatican on August 4, by National Geographic magazine photographer Dave Yoder and journalist Robert Draper.
Over the course of six months, Yoder, on an extended assignment for National Geographic, was granted special access to Francis, and when the company’s publishing unit got wind of the piece, it pounced at the chance to create a book out of the story. “The pope is such a fascinating character, and the new energy he has brought to the Vatican seemed like a worthy subject,” said Lisa Thomas, senior v-p and editorial director at National Geographic Books. “When we learned that [he] would be visiting the U.S. this fall, we knew we had to do a book to celebrate this important moment.”
The photographs will be joined by essays from Draper, who spent a month in Rome and three weeks in Francis’s native Buenos Aires. While in Rome, Draper frequently accompanied Yoder to the Vatican, often to see Francis during his public appearances. But for the most part, Draper gathered information through the network of people that surround Francis.
Thomas said Pope Francis and the New Vatican will be one of National Geographic’s lead titles for the fall. The publisher has increased the first print run—which now sits at 100,000 copies—twice, to keep up with demand. “It seems like interest in the pope is growing exponentially in anticipation of his visit,” Thomas noted.
To promote the book, National Geographic has lined up a segment on 60 Minutes with Yoder, to coincide with Francis’s U.S. tour. National Geographic magazine will also feature Yoder and Draper’s work as the cover story for the August issue. “There is a great story about the cover image,” Thomas said. “Dave was with the pope on Christmas Day and, after the official mass, was invited with just a handful of people to step into the Sistine Chapel. The pope paused briefly to stare at the magnificent ceiling, and Dave was able to shoot just one frame. But it was a perfect photograph, and the image became the cover of the book and the magazine cover for August.” Thomas continued. “I think it beautifully captures the simplicity of this pope and the grandeur and history of what has come before him.”
Draper also touched on the new pope’s reformative ways, and how he has already changed the public perception of the Church. “Francis’s central assertion—that the Church must go to the periphery and reach out, rather than expect the world to come to it—is revolutionary and implicitly counter to the more regal, insular posture assumed by his predecessors. Whether any doctrinal changes will emerge from his papacy is an open question. In my view, this is not his aim. But he’s surprised me as well, so I’m making no bets.”