Habemus Papam – we have a Pope! Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, received the required two-thirds majority of votes of the College of Cardinals to be elected Bishop of Rome, taking the name Pope Francis. There are a lot of reactions all over the media, and I don’t want to just repeat what others are saying, but here are some of my initial thoughts:
Service – Looking at Pope Francis on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, it was clear that our new Holy Father did not choose this ministry for himself – his entire demeanor was one of humility and service. One of the titles given to the Pope is Servant of the Servants of God – from initial appearances, Pope Francis is – more than anything else – a man of humble service.
Simplicity – As many people have noted in the media, Pope Francis is a man of simplicity – as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he lived in a simple apartment rather than a lavish mansion; he took the bus to work and often road the subway around the city; and he cooked his own meals. Even after his election as Pope, he continued in this vein, riding back to the Domus Sancta Marta in the Cardinals’ bus after the election rather than in the papal car. The world needs examples of simplicity and holiness.
Silence – It seems that universally the most moving moment of Pope Francis’ introduction to the world came when he asked the people in St. Peter’s Square to pray for him before he gave his blessing. He specifically asked for the crowd to pray in silence – and they did, not just in the Square, but throughout the world. The world needs examples of silence and calls to silence – for it is in silence that we can listen to God.
Rome – The Pope is first and foremost Bishop of Rome, and it seems that Pope Francis is very aware of his connection to the people of that great city. In his initial remarks, he often referred to himself as Bishop – of the city of Rome – and spoke of the relationship between the bishop and his people. But, most significantly, this morning he made his first papal trip across the city of Rome from the Vatican to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed in the chapel containing an image of Mary known as the Salus Populi Romani – the “Protector of the Roman People.” Of all the shrines in honor of the Mother of God in Rome, this one is most beloved by the Roman people themselves. In praying in this particular chapel in front of this particular icon, Pope Francis identified himself with the people of Rome as their bishop.
“Francis, rebuild my Church.” – In taking the name Francis – the first Pope to take this name – many of us couldn’t help but think of our Lord’s words to St. Francis of Assisi, giving him the task of rebuilding a Church that was falling down and struggling. For our new Holy Father, it seems that he is being given the same task and that he is willingly taking up this task – to rebuild the Church with humility, service, silence, and simplicity.