As I was waiting for the announcement of “Habemus Papam”, I rewinded my mind back to the days of when I had doubts with the Catholic Church. As strange as it may sound, I always considered myself having a good relationship with Christ, however for a couple of years I saw the Church as a hindrance in my spiritual life. As the tension rose, my thoughts kept winding up. A new Pope means a somewhat different leadership to the Church. Where will the new chosen Pontiff take the Church?
With the first few movements behind the curtains, my heart missed a beat or two.The announcement. No idea who this Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was. Surely he wasn’t one of the contenders. Then he appeared in the balcony. A slim straight looking guy, very timid yet alert, wearing all white – no red ‘muzzetta’ we were accustomed to with the Emeritus Pope. This will be my father for years to come. My first impression wasn’t a good one. He seemed very shy and stiff. Yet after a few seconds unfolding before us, the world saw the new Catholic leader. He broke the silence with a “Good evening”. Nothing overly spiritual or religious; just a human salute.
As he was going through the first few words, and I was balancing between following him and following the numerous tweet feeds, the first signs of humour appear. “The Cardinals have come almost to the ends of the earth to get him(me)”. I stopped. Did I hear correctly? First few words and we are already hearing small-talk? Twitter and Facebook get flooded with positive comments. I leapt with joy. I liked him.
The next part of his discourse surrounded Benedict XVI. Interestingly enough he calls Benedict XVI as “Bishop Emeritus” and not as Pope Emeritus; which after all is the designated name Benedict chose for himself some days ago. Then he proceeded to pray for him. I was expecting some special prayer – yet to a great astonishment I heard the “Our Father” – in Italian even! Following were the “Hail Mary” and “Glory”. The Pope using popular piety! I truly appreciated this move. This clearly depicted the new Pope as a human without the sometimes pompous prayers we indulge in.
The next section was all surrounding the idea of a Bishop of Rome and not of a Pope. Some might ask what the difference is. Only after some reflection I started seeing what these choice of words meant. Bergoglio doesn’t seem to plan his pontificate to be one of administration but one of pastoral care. He plans to be a Pastor. He wants the Church of Rome to preside in “charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust”. In his eyes the world is not but a “beautiful city”. These words encourage fraternal relationships with other Christian denominations and truly inspire a level playing field for ecumenism.
If you go around asking what people appreciated most in those 15 minutes, I am almost sure most would say the Pope bowing his head. Before he blessed the whole world, he asked us to pray for him so that God blesses their Bishop. And then silence. Total silence. Silence was only broken when the formal preparations for his first Urbi et Orbi was to be prayed.
I thought this was the end of the first viewing of our new shepherd. But against all protocol, and to what I saw as coming to surprise to his colleagues, he decided to speak again to his flock. To me it seemed that he didn’t want to leave the balcony. It reminded me so much of the ‘Discorso della luna’ of John XXIII before the opening of the Vatican Council II. With a broken voice, similar to a child missing his parents, he thanked the world. With a pair of eyes full of joy and gratitude, he humbly showed his appreciation for the welcome received and finished with a “we will see one another soon”. Last of today’s phrases was a “Good night and sleep well!” Both discourses addressed the human aspect of the person. This in my eyes is sometimes overshadowed by the strict formulations the Catholic Church is often accused of.
I truly appreciated these first minutes of our new Pope. Looking on my facebook wall, I started seeing many people affirming my first impressions. This new Bishop is surely one with a captivating smile and ready to steal the hearts of people of good will. Furthermore, he is one who appreciates social media.Minutes before his appearance in the gallery, he restarted the @Pontifex twitter account. He was a bus user as well as well a small flat owner, eschewing a formal bishop’s residence. He seems to be one who loves the poor; in fact, he even chose the name Francesco.
These first few instances of what we saw of the Pope tonight surely promise to be an interesting time for the Church. A Time where the Church gets reminded of the importance we have to give to the poor, and find new ways to dialogue. After a great pontificate of Benedict, where we as the Church were all encouraged to improve our relationship with Christ, these first few minutes of Francesco promise us to practice what we learned from the ex-Pope.