Black smoke, white smoke, no more smoke today — Thanks be to God! — but the excitement isn’t over yet. We are still excited about getting to know our new Pope.
Yesterday was full of surprises for everybody. Most of us were not expecting the Pope to be elected so quickly. When the new Pope was announced, all the people around me were asking “Who?” And the name Francis caught many people by surprise.
Then came the moment when he stepped out on the balcony dressed in white to meet the world for the first time. My immediate impression was Pius XII, because he looked so stately and impressive (just not quite as tall as Pius XII). I said to myself, “Now that’s a Pope.” He looks good in white.
It did not take long for the term “Black Pope” to start circulating. This misnomer stems from the fact that the Pope is a Jesuit and the General Superior of the Society of Jesus has long been called “The Black Pope” in the city of Rome. But Francis I is not the General Superior of the Jesuits. He’s the Pope. And he wears white.
In fact, the name “Brown Pope” seems more fitting, if you think about it. It has been confirmed that he chose the name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, not Francis Xavier or Francis Borgia (both Jesuits). Although either of those two other saints would have been very fitting, for today the name St. Francis of Assisi is inspired. Everyone loves the gentle saint.
And that’s what I see in our new Pope. A true man of poverty, poor in spirit, and humble servant of the poor and sick. A channel of peace that the world needs today. A man with a mandate from God — “Rebuild my Church!”
Let me elaborate on that last thought for a moment. Since Benedict’s announcement of his resignation there has been a lot of media speculation that the Church is in turmoil, that it needs an overhaul, and that the college of cardinals has been fraught with infighting and political factions over which direction the Church should take (obviously evidenced by the consensus they achieved during one of the shortest conclaves in history). There may be some truth to these claims, though I think overhaul is a vast overstatement.
The Church does not need to be rebuilt. But we do need a pope who will reestablish the Church’s integrity in the eyes of the world today. Pope Benedict saw (still sees) this clearly, but he also determined, with all humility, that the Holy Spirit has someone else in mind for this task. To me, the name of Francis speaks to this need.
The most powerful moment of yesterday’s Urbi et Orbi blessing was the moment when the crowd began to chant the pope’s name: “FRAN-CES-CO! FRAN-CES-CO! FRAN-CES-CO!!!” That’s the moment when I said, “Yes! We have a new Pope. And the people love him.”
Thank you God! Viva il Papa! Long live Francis I!