Pope Francis pauses before a statue of the Madonna on the steps of St. Peter’s on April 10, 2013
On the morning of March 13 I was awaken with the words from Fernando, “There is white smoke at the Vatican.” We sat in front of the television for the next hour listening to very highly paid commentators tell us that the only thing they knew for sure was that the senior cardinal would appear on the balcony with the announcement, “We have a Pope.” And that would be followed by the name of the cardinal and the name he has chosen as his papal name. All that would be said in Latin a language that I do not speak or understand. I was prepared to wait for the translation.
Pope greets Cardinals after his April 10 General Audience
However when the announcement came I thought I heard the name Francis and it sent chills up and down my spine. “Chills” describes the goose bumps but it implies coldness and that is exactly the opposite of what I felt. It was as if a jolt of electricity had entered my body at the base of my brain. It then descended down each vertebrae to the base of my spine and then reverberated back up my spine. It was as if each nerve ending tingling with energy was newly alive. Of course this all happened within less than a second, but what I was left with was with the feeling it is different now.
Pope delivers his catechism lesson during his General Audience on April 10.
The Pope Francis made his first appearance not in the ermine fur trimmed cape of his predecessors, but a simple white cossack, adorned not with an ornate gold cross, but a simple silver cross. They spoke of a humble man who knows his priorities. Then he asked the assembled thousands to bless him with their silent prayers. I thought maybe this is the man needed for the church at this time.
Pope Francis blessing the assembled crowd on April 10.
When Benedict XVI announced his resignation I along with thousands of other thought about what they expected of the next Pope. I concluded that I would never expect the Pope to announce that he apologized to the GLBT for the injustice that the church had imposed on them. I just would be pleased if there was a Pope who emphasized what we share in common, our humanity, rather than our differences.
Pope Francis greets a VIP with a smile after his general audience.
During Holy Week the Pope went not to St Peter’s Basilica to wash the feet of his Cardinals, but in a trip reminiscent of Pope John XXIII, he went to a Rome prison for young people. There he washed the feet of twelve people among them two Muslims. That would have been tradition shattering enough, but he didn’t stop there. Two of the people whose foot he washed were female. That simple act shattered centuries of church tradition that since no women were among Christ’s disciples, they can play no role in the priesthood of the church. The Vatican was quick to issue note that the actions signified no change in church policy or laws but only reflected the personal wish of the Pope. But still every heart wishing for recognition, must have rejoiced at a gesture that this Pope understands the church teachings in a way that recognizes the dignity of all God’s creation.
The new Pope gets guidance on the next steps of his weekly audience.
So maybe this is another case of my expectations being to low. So while I wait for the announcement I would like the Pope to make, I wait with a new burst of energy and the hope that this is the change I’ve been longing for.
The Pope leaves St. Peter’s Square after the General Audience of April 10, 2013.