habemus papam!

pope francis blessing

No more staring at chimney stacks. We have a pope!

I often share stories of ‘where were you when’ Pope Benedict was elected. Sadly, many of us remember the moment with sadness. We did not have much hope or joy based on Cardinal Ratzinger’s reputation as a doctrinal Rottweiler. My story went like this…

I was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair when news of the white smoke came on the radio. I dashed home to watch the news coverage. When the name of the new pontiff was announced, my heart sank. It was noon time and hubby hadn’t arrived home for lunch. I found myself pouring a small shot of vodka.I did the same when I watched the resigned pope’s helicopter fly away from the Vatican.

That moment of the last Habemus Papam has stayed with me a long time. I hoped and prayed that this time would be different. When the name of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was read, I had a Karol Wojtiła moment. Who? After all the obsessive reading I had been doing, I thought I was up on all the papabili. But, I could not recall his name. Thinking of the English translation, George, I wracked my brain, but gave up and waited for him to appear.

It was good to see him without any preconceived notions or biases. What I saw was a humble looking man, with a kind, gentle demeanor and voice. He did not have his arms raised in a victorious salute, as if to say “I won”! He simply stood there, dressed only in his papal whites. And then came the clincher…

Before he gave his blessing, he asked the people to bless him; to pray to God for him. As he bowed forward in silence, a hush descended on the square. After a few moments of silence, he stood up and only then gave his blessing to the church and the world. Wow…this was the golden memory moment. John Paul II used to kneel and kiss the ground. Francis bowed to be blessed by the people. I hope he makes this a regular gesture, and that others will imitate it’s powerful symbolism.

There is much to be excited about with this pope, especially all the firsts. He is the first pope from Latin America. He is the first Jesuit. He is the first to take the name of Francis – a favorite saint of mine and many Catholics, especially in Italy. News is already spreading about his humble and simple life-style. No car and chauffeur. No episcopal palace. No cook.

Yes, he is conservative on the hot button doctrinal issues, but so are all the cardinals. John Paul II or Benedict XVI would not have given them the red hat if they weren’t. But he is a pastor first, and a champion of the poor; a liberal, social justice advocate.

Not everyone is happy. A friend shared an article from Slate that included the following,

Liturgical traditionalists (myself included) can only be depressed by this election–it is almost the worst result possible for those of us who think the new liturgy lost the theological profundity and ritual beauty of the Tridentine Mass. Benedict’s liberation of the traditional Latin Mass and revisions to the new vernacular Mass have not been implemented at all in Cardinal Bergoglio’s own diocese. Already some of the small breaks with liturgical tradition at the announcement of his election are being interpreted as a move toward the grand, unruly, and improvisational style of John Paul II; an implicit rebuke of Benedict.

Hmmm…high praise in my books! Considering the deep divide in liturgical styles, it’s understandable its hard to please everyone. The steady regression to liturgical garb and traditions of the pre-Vatican II years had both its fans and its critics. I have never been a fan of ostentatious, Baroque finery and clerical exclusivity. So, this wee bit of news is good news to me and to many of my friends.

Of course, these are only first impressions. But, I am happy to be happy with first impressions. I am happy that we do not have another Vatican insider or European. I am happy that our church now has a more global face, one that reflects the reality of our geographical demographics. I am happy that we seem to have a simple, humble, pope of the people with a preferential option for the poor.

So, I am going to relish the moment….and raise a glass in toast of Pope Francis! May the blessings he so humbly requested, be showered upon him as he faces the gifts and tasks of the papacy.

pope francis

17 thoughts on “habemus papam!

  1. In a moment I went from rather hopeless to hopeful. I hope it was the Holy Spirit telling me all would be OK for Francis and for all of us. Alleluia!

  2. I too am hopeful – cautiously.

    I thought there was something profoundly hopeful for the Church when Pope Francis asked that “the prayer of the people bring down the blessing of God,” and then he knelt before the crowd. I was encouraged to hear him say that today the Church begins a journey of “bishop together with people”.

    I love that he picked a name no other pope has used, and that it is Francis.

    And that he is a Jesuit.

    Please, please, please let this be a forward movement for Catholicism.

  3. Nice reflection, Isabella. Good point about the hot button issues. I don’t expect major changes. But I do have hope in the way he has lived his life and been a servant leader.

    • I hear you, Matt. Reading all the bios on the papabili didn’t leave me with much excitement. Being a servant leader is key. A man who is a pastor, one with the people, will hopefully go a long way to healing divisions in our church.

  4. Isabella, I completely relate to your reactions to the last election and to this one. Fred and I were watching the announcement in April 2005. We’d recently seen Bush re-elected in the US and Sarkozy elected in France. Fred’s comment on seeing Ratzinger come out on the balcony: “We’re 0 for 3.” This time around, I have been pleasantly surprised by that last three elections. I only hope Pope Francis won’t disappoint as Holland has and won’t be hampered by the curia as Obama is by Republicans in Congress. Blessings on Pope Francis!

    • Oh, David and I had a good chuckle over the 0 for 3 line, Mary! I agree about the fear that this may be another ‘Obama moment’….an election that brings much hope and energy, but is dashed in the continued political bickering and partisanship. While I don’t agree with unilateral power from the top, I do hope that the new Pope cleans house of all those who might stand in the way of organizational reform.

      And, Merci for the Slate link!

  5. Then Jesus said, “If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.”
    Luke 18:14
    I have great hope in our new humble Vicar of Christ! Just the kind of leadership I think our great Church needs. God is good.

  6. “a “defamatory” and “anti-clerical left-wing” campaign”
    I’m incensed.
    I’m biting my tongue.
    Please, pope Francis, get rid of this Lombardi… and do something about those self-serving…
    How can pope Francis show us the way to openness and communion with this kind of rhetoric taken right out of the right-wing playbook used to categorize and stigmatize, without actually adressing anything?
    And, by the way, I’m a practising Catholic, very involved in my parish church, and I’m borderline anti-clerical (don’t get me going about priests act like they have a direct line to God, and…), and also left-wing…!!
    This is my Church too!
    I know I’m hoping for a lot from Francis I.
    I know he’s conservative.
    I know he can only do so much.
    But, PLEASE, don’t make things worse!

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