By TARIN PARADISE, guest columnist

From the moment Pope Francis ascended to the highest office within the Roman Catholic Church, he’s been defying stereotypes and exceeding expectations of Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

He is the first non-European pope. He is an outspoken advocate of the impoverished and outcast, whose devotion to the poor garnered him the honor of Time Magazine’s person of the year for 2013 — beating out other short-listers like Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), Sen. Ted Cruz and Edward Snowden.

Time’s decision to choose Pope Francis came in large part because “[He] has elevated the healing mission of the church — the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world — above the doctrinal police work so important to his predecessors.”

It’s true. This pope is a man with a tender heart for the poor and downcast. Long before he was elevated to pope, Francis regularly made arduous pilgrimages to minister to the desperately poor in Argentina’s slums.

And occupying the throne of St. Peter hasn’t done a thing to diminish his dedication to the downtrodden. In the last year, Pope Francis had shower facilities installed for the homeless living around the Vatican, and he is known to slip out at night to visit with them.

It is this kind of humility and compassion for the suffering masses that has earned him the nickname “the People’s Pope.”

Unlike many of his predecessors, this Pope Francis shuns the opulence of the papal quarters, choosing instead to occupy a modest, two-room apartment within the Vatican.

He has openly condemned corruption within the Church and has excommunicated known members of the Mafia — at no small threat to his safety.

Catholic or not, you have to admire a guy like that.

But recently, the People’s Pope has been raising the people’s ire.

He has come under fire for his progressive views on controversial issues within the Catholic Church, and in an unusual display of anger and frustration last month, he publicly scolded devotees when pulled into a crowd during an event in Mexico.

Charges like these, along with Francis’ suggestion that Donald Trump “is not a Christian” and his negative remarks about a wall between the U.S. and Mexico — when the pope himself lives in a city-state surrounded by a wall — has many pointing their proverbial fingers at Francis and shouting, “Hypocrite!”

It’s an all too common occurrence, really, espec- ially with high-profile religious leaders.

It’s easy to forget that Pope Francis and others are, after all, people just like us. And, like us, they experience family problems, issues on the job and all the other stressors that affect so many of our lives.

So, when they stumble — say something without thinking or act rashly — perhaps it’s not because they’re hypocrites, but because they’re human, and ALL humans fail (Romans 3:23).

For sure, these people inspire and encourage us in our own relationships with God, but to place our faith in them is where we fail.

No other human being — not our pastor, not our priest, not the people we watch on the church channels, or even other believers — are ever to be the examples to which we aspire, or the benchmarks by which we measure our own spiritual growth and progress.

God alone sets that standard, and He never fails. It’s hard to find fault with an example like that.

paradise, tarinTarin Paradise is a Brown County resident.