COMMENTARY | Now as we look out over the square at Saint Peter’s Basilica, it has returned to its sparse, but constant, bustling population. In contrast to yesterday when the statue-surrounded terrace was packed with people waiting, with great patience in the rain, for a first look at the newest Vicar of Christ.
At exactly 8:26pm (in Rome) I joined, by television, those in the square and billions of other Catholics across the world in spirit, as we said our own personal prayers for the newest Catholic Pope, Francis, during the moment of silence he requested for that reason. Like many Catholics I had been following the events that unfolded after the relatively surprising resignation of our former Pope, Benedict XVI, but unlike some, I had just converted to Catholicism a little less than a year ago. I was called to The Faith, not for any other person, but for myself alone, and my growing realization that Catholicism was the faith that God had chosen for me. I am old enough to remember three Popes throughout my lifetime, but they were always distant, iconic, religious figures that I understood only slightly better than other men holding foreign leadership roles. Now, as I embrace my new faith it seems as if God has given me [personally] the gift of a new leader to share, and guide, my journey.
As I listen to the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, who had chosen the name Francis, my first sense was that this man seems to possess such sincere warmth that one can’t help being be drawn to him. In just a few short moments he expressed such genuine appreciation, and at the same time great humility in being chosen to lead the Catholics of the world. In contrast, with Pope Benedict XVI, who I would have followed faithfully as most Catholics, I felt somewhat alienated. I admit to not following all the stories of scandal closely enough to have formed my own specific opinions about the former Pope’s role, but I knew enough about his personality to wonder if my heart would truly be with him. There is simply no question at all with Pope Francis.
From the humble way he carries himself to the noble bearing he couldn’t fully hide if he wanted to, he seems to encompass all those things the Church needs right now to heal and continue to re-build and reform. As I completed that prayer, I realized that the rain that had been falling on Saint Peter’s Square all day had stopped, as if God had wanted to add an additional note of support, a personal acceptance that the Cardinals had heard his call and chosen wisely. I know that as far as I am concerned, even though I knew next to nothing about him prior to the announcement, I believe their choice to be truly inspired, and I can only hope, as I believe most Catholics do, that the new Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis, will guide the Church through these trying modern times, while continuing to hold true to his own personal ideals.