Habemus papem!

Pope Francis
Well it would be almost sinful to close this day without making some kind of a blog entry! What an eventful day for our Church. After 13 days of sede vacant, we have our new Pope. Being recently baptised the class ‘vaticanista’, I have been keeping a very close eye on papal events since Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI make the historic decisions to step down from his ministry as Pope beginning on the 28th of February.

There has been an element of Irishness attached to this conclave as I found myself by default having to repeatedly explain St. Malachy’s Prophecies and the concept of Paddy power betting, both which had been cropping up all over the place especially in North American media. I’m guessing like most of the world, I too, had my opinion, as to what I would like to see in the next Pope but was very happy to leave that up to the Holy Spirit. My main hope was for a man that would continue the trend of holy Popes who were aware that they were merely an instrument of the mercy and love of God and depended completely on Him to carry out the immense task of guiding the Church. Adding St. Patrick into the revised Litany of Saints to begin the conclave did allow me a little space to imagine the possibility of a ‘Pope Patrick I’ but maybe that was just the proximity of St. Patrick’s Day doing its thing!

This morning as we were going to class, one of my companions mentioned that he had seen seagulls, a sure sign that Spring was on the way. You might remember later on how the world’s most photographed and televised seagull (or was it a pigeon?), entertained the crowds in St. Peter’s Square a little while later for over an hour as the world awaited with baited breath for the smoke, either black or white, to come out!  I confess I sat through our Procedural Law class with one eye on the chimney in St. Peter’s Square and the other on my notes.  By the time we finished lunch we were still waiting for the smoke signals (remember, we are 5 hours behind Rome, last weekend we changed our clocks!). However during lunch, the snow started again! So much for people saying we had seen the last of it.  A little over a week ago we had a bizarre amount of snow fall in 24 hours so the change in the weather seemed to indicate a change.I remember thinking to myself...white snow=white smoke maybe?
Cardinal Jorge ministering to children and adults with HIV,
a beautiful image of the Servant of the servants of God
Luckily enough, we were able to rig up a computer to a projector and watch the whole thing in our classroom.  And yes, the snow kept, well, snowing!  As I type, there is a blizzard kind of thing happening out there. The winds of change for a new Spring in the Church maybe! Listening to the crowds cheering, singing, chanting just kept building the anticipation as we waited for the curtains to be drawn back on the balcony and the name of our new Pope was pronounced by the protodeacon Cardinal Jean Louis Touran: “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam: Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Georgium Marium Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum”.  Just as our group fell silent (though I am hoping that we all understood the Latin greeting), I noted that the crowd in the Square was silent too. I am guessing they were all thinking: “who is he”. Frantic grabbing for iphones, laptops and other electronic devices pursued so as to decipher the mystery and find out that Jorge Marion Bergoglio, from Argentina, had been elected as the first Pope from the Americas and was to take the name Pope Francis. It was very emotional to hear the slight tremor in the voice of the new Pope as he asked each one of us for our prayers: “And now I would like to give the blessing. But first I want to ask you a favour. Before the Bishop blesses the people I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me – the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer – your prayer for me – in silence.” We paused and prayed with the thousands of people gathered in the Square in communion with the whole Church throughout the world.

Yes, our Pope needs prayers! In less than two hours, millions of opinions have already been formed about our beloved Pope Francis, opinions which are both positive and negative. If you do anything before you finish your day today, whisper a prayer for this humble servant of God, who has accepted, to lead the Church of our day. Even though we don’t know yet which ‘Francis’ our Pope is named after, that is, Francis Xavier, Francis of Assisi, I think it is safe to say the voice which St. Francis of Assisi heard, resounds even more strongly today: “Francis, rebuild my Church!”. Holy Father, we are with you all the way!