At the start of our Mass at noon on March 13th, I knew we had a pope, but had no idea who he might be. Then, along with the offertory gifts, was a post-it note. Written on it was “Cardinal Bergoglio, Argentina” and “Francis I”. I shared that with the congregation and went on with the Eucharist. It felt good to have a name to say in the part of the Eucharistic prayer where we pray for N. our Pope and N. our Bishop. Here in Oregon we will have two new names to get used to, as we’ll have a new Archbishop April 2nd —Alexander. In Chicago they’ll say: ”Francis our Pope and Francis our Archbishop”. Keeps it simple.
After Communion, while we sat quietly, I had a few thoughts on the new Pope. At that time I knew very little about him, but was glad it was someone from the southern hemisphere, where most Catholics live. I was impressed that he took the name Francis and is the first pope with that name. I admire St. Francis and Cardinal Bergoglio’s choice of a name new to the papacy suggested the possibility that he would boldly go where no pope has gone before.
Too, it felt good to have a pope. This surprised me. I did not feel bad when the seat was vacant, but now having someone sitting in it brought a refreshing sense of newness and possibility. Remember, at this point I had no idea even of what he looked like.
After Mass I got to a television and switched between MSNBC and CNN. They were replaying all we’d missed during Mass—the announcement and his appearance on the balcony. My first reaction was that he looked scared to death. Then he smiled. The pundits were saying he is very Orthodox and very committed to the poor and to Catholic teaching on social justice. They also informed us that he had never been assigned to the Curia in Vatican City, rode public transportation, had sold the Archbishop’s palace and did his own cooking. Something for everyone. He has the potential of unifying the varying ecclesiologies (notions of the role and purpose of the Church) within the present Church.
By the time you are reading this, perhaps we will have a clearer picture of how he will be as Pope. But did you notice how he never used that word? He said he is the Bishop of Rome and was elected to be bishop for the people of Rome. Is that a hint of some impending collaborative arrangement with his fellow bishops?
The deputy press official in the Vatican made this comment, perhaps unwittingly: We've just elected a pastor, a good shepherd. We're going to have to get used to this!" Viva il papa.