Shortly after 11:00 a.m. (11:07 a.m.) Pacific Coast time, white smoke rose from the Cardinals’ enclave on the fifth vote of the session, indicating they had chosen the new Pope. Then we waited until after 12:00, while behind the curtains much activity; the fitting of the Pope’s white vestments, the prayer and swearing by the Cardinals of their oath of fealty and obedience to this new Pope (my words, not official language). And, we waited. I found myself praying they had chosen well and that God would look after his new vicar and help him in these perilous times. I waited until just after 12:00 when the official appears before the thousands in St. Peter’s Square, where I have stood before an earlier Pope, and millions watching via television and all the ubiquitous technology of today, to announce in formal Latin and formal phrasing that we have a new Pope, he was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has chosen to be known as Francisco (or Francis as he will be known in English). There was a noticeable silence from the TV as the newscasters frantically tried to figure out who he was, but there was a spontaneous roar from the waiting crowd in the Square and faces lifted to the balcony filled with joy and hope and prayer as the man stepped out onto the balcony. He is out of Brazil, Argentina. He is a Jesuit, 76 years old, a man known for his intellect, acuity, and adherence to (doctrine?) – to long held traditions within the Church. He is also very well known for his humility and championship of the poor. He chose the name Francis, the first Pope to do so. It is thought this is in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, but there are two other Frances and it may well be one of them, though all the wagging tongues are saying it is Francis of Assisi. The news media certainly thought so based on the new Pope’s own lifestyle of not living in the Cardinal’s palace, of going to work on the bus, of cooking his own meals. The man who stepped out and stood before the world for the first time as Pope looked poleaxed, still as a statue, no immediate smile, just a serious gaze. (Wonderfully disconcerting to those of us used to politicians and movie stars.) He began, “Buena Sera,” and asked everyone in the square and throughout the world to pray for him (and for Pope Benedict, Emeritus ~ again, my language not his). He then prayed for all and said a blessing. Only towards the end did a quick smile appear.
Lots of commentary and “what does this mean?” I found myself praying before the announcement, through it and on the way home from the dentist, stopping at my local Church to light a candle. The doors were locked up until mass later this evening. It is still Lent. I noticed the business offices parking lot was filled with cars, while I was only the second car in the Church’s parking lot.
As I thought about him and our world, I prayed he would do well, survive, and be what we need. We have no real leaders, certainly not here in the United States, or globally that I can immediately praise and call to mind. We need someone of good character and strength. God, be with him and us. There was some commentary on his leadership in Argentina and their junta troubles, but he clearly called out the insurgency, as well as the junta in their time. Good sign. May he have Your protection and guidance, God.