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20130314-110209.jpgROME -- As the multitudes gathered to wait for smoke last night, the mood on St. Peter's Square -- at least in the parts I occupied (and was pushed to) -- was somewhere between political rally and victory parade. Some offered prayers, although, given the cold, wet weather, it wasn't always easy to tell which hands were clutched in prayer and which for warmth. There were children perched on their parents' shoulders, elderly couples, young people, nuns, monks, priests, seminarians -- most of them speaking Italian. They argued about who would emerge from the balcony -- an American? No, no -- it will be the cardinal of Milan. (Indeed, the Italian bishops conference was so sure that Cardinal Scola would be the next pope that it sent out a press release congratulating him on his election.) They shouted down the flag-wavers, those wielding too-tall umbrellas -- and some who had attached the two -- who made it hard to see. They defended their territory on the piazza, with wide stances, and the occasional elbow. They shared restaurant tips. Groused about how long it was taking the cardinals to decide.

And then the smoke came. Gray at first, and lots of it. But not for long. "Bianca!" one middle-aged Italian bellowed, throwing his arms around a friend. "Bianca! Bianca! Bianca!" Screams, cheers, and shrieks -- the stampede toward St. Peter's Basilica had begun. A forest of umbrellas pushed forward. The Swiss Guard marched out. The band began to play. Vatican staff had assembled on neighboring rooftops. Some snapped photos from the top of St. Peter's. Cheers from the crowd: "Viva papa!" And we waited. And waited. Patience wore thin. More arguments about the new pope. More territorial disputes. The weather wasn't helping. And then it cleared.

When the light behind the balcony came on, the masses gasped, and applauded. And screamed some more -- until Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran emerged to deliver the news, and silence descended on the assembly. They were waiting for the name, and when it came, they let out a long sigh that indicated either confusion or disappointment. Bergoglio? No one seemed familiar with the name, which ended in a vowel, but was not Scola. Someone produced a book of the cardinals' bios. The crowd noticed. "Who is it?" A Jesuit? Seventy-six years old? From Argentina? Who took the name Francis? The people around me, nearly all of them Italian, looked puzzled as they nodded.

The pope would have to make a good first impression. But when Francis walked out on the balcony, he seemed not to know that he was on camera -- in close-up. His face was expressionless, if not stern. He didn't smile. He didn't move much at all. And then the white microphone was raised to his mouth. As he spoke, a smile spread across his face. His eyes came to life. And the piazza roared.

"As you know," he said, "the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome. It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am." A touching, amusing line, and it killed. He asked for the crowd's blessing. He bowed. He led them in simple prayer. And then he bid the Square good night, and good rest.

With that, the piazza began to empty, almost as quickly as it had filled. As I pressed my way to the media center, I passed a Catholic journalist who was looking a bit shell shocked.

"Grant!" he cried out. "Can you believe it? That was the Holy Spirit."

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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I'm 'happy' to hear I wasn't the only person asking, 'Who?' I have little doubt we will hear more than enough about him in the coming days, which is all good and well. However, I'm more interested in seeing what Pope Francis I is going to do about the Curia, et al. I do know one thing, we're never going to hear the end of this from "those" Jesuits over at "America" LOL

Beautifully told, Grant. I was glued to the TV, and as he spoke, I felt overwhelmed by the simplicity, warmth, and humility of his actions. It WAS the Holy Spirit. I am still amazed.

I liked his opening speech when he said The duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome, and it seems to me that my brother cardinals went to fetch him at the end of the world. But here I am."a bishop of Rome"I think that brings the papacy down to earth a little, and I'm glad he framed his office that way right out of the gate.

I thought the Pope looked stunned.

I was driving when the announcement was made, so I flipped between NPR and the "Catholic Channel" (on Sirius). What amazed me was that everyone was completely stunned when the name was announced, but within ten minutes everyone was reporting that Bergoglio was widely known to have been the runner up in 2005. I understand that he's 8 years older and might no longer be a favorite, but it still surprises me that apparently no one thought the #2 vote getter in the previous election was at least a person to be watched.

It took the interwebs about 0.0000000003 seconds when Ratzinger was elected to make the Palpatine connection. As of this morning, some 20 hours after Bergoglio was announced? The best I've seen is George Bluth Sr. So, yes, unanticipated.

Not to rain on the parade, but it seems neither the "Prayer of St. Francis" nor the injunction: "Preach the Gospel always; if necessary, use words" are authentic sayings of Francis of Assisi. At least no one has been able to trace them back before the twentieth century.

I am confused--I am missing where that saying or that prayer came up in the above post.

Abe: George Bluth hadn't occurred to me, but I did have an Ann-like reaction when I first saw the man -- and again this morning seeing him in the paper: "Him?" Is it me or does he look completely different in every photo? He changes his glasses and I don't recognize him.

Joe, did you post your comment @ 10:34 on the wrong thread? No one has mentioned either the Prayer of St Francis or the saying you mention, here.

I had yesterday's live feed on my work computer in the teacher's lounge. The fact that the commentary was very slow on the uptake with the translations added to the "who?" factor, I think. There was some dead air when announcers were clearly trying to construe the Latin and figure out what Cardinal Tauran had said. During the coverage, one of my co-workers passed by and opined that the new pope looked like Junior Soprano. Interesting comparison. Junior looked about as desperate as Mr. Magoo, but had hidden depths. This must be true of Pope Francis, though in a much more benign way, if his brother cardinals saw fit to elect him so quickly. Sounds like Grant had fun in the crowd. Every time there were gasps and cheers, I would look up, but nothing was happening. All that created a fair amount of agita (as Junior would say), so the appearance of the new pope seemed pretty anti-climactic. I enjoyed the comic relief of the the six or eight "stage dressers" in suits hanging the bunting and running back and forth in a tizzy between the "habemus papam" announcement and the appearance.

This must be true of Pope Francis, though in a much more benign way, if his brother cardinals saw fit to elect him so quickly.Jean,Apparently the cardinals have very little say in the matter. The Holy Spirit picks the popes.

What is the official name of this new pope: "Francis" or "Francis I"?

Francis. He won't be I unless and until there is a II.

That makes sense. Like some wouldn't call someone John, sr., unless he had a son John, jr.

Thank you both.

Joseph, it is Francis I. He is the first pope to take that name---so he is Francis I.

Uh, no, Little Bear. The Vatican confirmed last night that it is Francis. I have no idea why people started calling him Francis I. It makes no sense.

David N., as I understand and believe, the Holy Spirit is there offering guidance. Whether the cardinals pay attentionto it is a another matter. They do have free will. And we know where that sometimes leads. Jesus only promises that they cannot destroy the Church, and it has withstood some bad popes.I expect this pope will be a solid traditionalist, perhaps blunt in his remarks (e.g., gay adoption discriminates against children), but who emphasizes human dignity and may be less impressed with himself than some heirs to the throne of St. Peter have been.

From Whispers in the Loggia tweets:- "I shall be called Francis, in memory of St Francis of Assisi!" - On Day One, Pope makes pit-stop at guest house where he was staying pre-Conclave to pick up his bags, pay the bill- press briefing: Pope Francis received the other cardinals from where he was sitting in the Sistine Chapel, not on the throne.- Leaving Sistina for Domus, papal motorcade was ready for Pope Francis, but new pontiff opted to join cardinals on their Conclave buses....This is sounding better and better. And he even has a sense of humor:- On dinnertime toast from cardinals, Pope Francis responded, "May God forgive you."

I wasn't responding to any particular comment, but was just anticipating the sorts of things that people might say when the connection is made with St. Francis of Assisi...

Though he was pope for only 33 days in 1978, Cardinal Albino Luciani was Pope John Paul until his successor took the name John Paul II.

as I understand and believe, the Holy Spirit is there offering guidance. Whether the cardinals pay attentionto it is a another matter.Jean,Over on First Things, I had quoted John Allen quoting then-Cardinal Ratzinger:

. . . Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:
I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. . . . I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirits role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.

Then the clincher:

There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!

But someone pointed out that three days after his election, Benedict had said to the College of Cardinals:

I feel it my duty, in the first place, to thank God who wanted me, despite my human frailty, as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, and has entrusted to me the task of governing and guiding the Church.

The same person came quoted Benedict commenting on his feelings during the voting:

With profound conviction I said to the Lord: Do not do this to me! You have younger and better people at your disposal, who can face this great responsibility with greater dynamism and greater strength.

It is very difficult to argue agains that. I have a very strong feeling that Benedict could reconcile his statement about the very limited role of the Holy Spirit as he described it in 1997 with his later statements, but it seemed futile for me to attempt it.

On the Prayer of St. Francis: We sing it EVERY Sunday to the most wretched music for which I do not blame Francis. The beat is either a waltz or a fox trot.

David N. --Benedict said he was sure the Holy Spirit didn't pick the popes because if He had some of the ones we've had would never have been elected.

" ... The beat is either a waltz or a fox trot."Try it with Zumba. And a Ketel One dirty martini, up, with all the frou-frou.

Glad I caught up to this, Grant. Beautifully done.The Prayer of St. Francis traces to a Belgian priest in WWI, as I understand it. I believe Cardinal Francis Spellman later helped to popularize it. The "if necessary, use words" statement doesn't show up in any of the medieval accounts of Francis's life or in his writings. But maybe it can be said that at least both seem consistent with the man we meet in his writings.

Lordy, Lordy! The Vatican Old Guard must be trembling in their boots. Check out Rocco's latest article about Pope Francis' innovations, plus the photos of him riding in the bus with the cardingals and paying his hotel bill. If those are just hints of what is going to happen, we are in for some stormy times.

Reading report of the few few hours of Pope Francis, I am struck by how it is customary to systematically isolate the pope so that no one may communicate by chance and access to him is tightly controlled at every moment of the day.For example when after leaving the balcony he took the elevator down, he was supposed to go into the elevator alone with his immediate staff. But this new pope insisted instead that there was plenty of room for more people. Then the picture of him on the bus is striking: he is so accessible! Any cardinal with an urgent message for him could talk to him! Already that reduces the power of the staff.

Having watched the Pope celebrate Mass in the Sistine Chapel yesterday, his visit to St. Mary Major, and his greeting Cardinal Sodano at this morning's audience with the cardinals, I have noticed that he can be rather unsteady in his movements. It looks to me as if he might already need to use the moving platform that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI used towards the end of their pontificates to manage the long aisle in St. Peter's. And then there are the number of steps to the altar. Reason for concern?

Ann - that photo in Rocco's previous post with the Holy Father stainding at the hotel counter to settle his bill is a classic. If a national ad campaign hadn't debased the word, I'd say, priceless. Wonderful and hilarious all at the same time.

"For example when after leaving the balcony he took the elevator down, he was supposed to go into the elevator alone with his immediate staff. But this new pope insisted instead that there was plenty of room for more people."One of the endearing things about Pope John of Everybody was his lack of pretension. He didn't like to eat alone as other popes did, and liked wearing that furry papal hat because it kept his bald head warm. In his "Journey of a Soul," there are some lovely letters to his family in which he tells them how much he missed type-writing.Perhaps older men who have made it a point to live in the world and embrace the joys and sorrows of real people are better able to brush away some of that control that Claire mentions.

Just for the record, the Casa Internazionale del Clero (also, Residenza Paulo VI), Via della Scrofa, 70, is a residence for priests working in the Curia and for priests and bishops in Rome for meetings. Occasionally laymen are allowed to stay there. Adding up the time I spent there over two decades, I could probably claim several months' residence. Before "the fall."

For presidential elections I have in the past been struck by a difference between the US and France: in the US, a presidential candidate gets his chance to make his case for the elections, and is supported as best possible by his party, but if he fails, he won't get a second chance. It seems that US citizens consider that it is then time to go to other potential candidates, and the one who didn't make it when he had his chance is out. In France, on the other hand, a failed presidential bid can be seen as a warm-up, and unlucky candidates are considered as primary candidates for the next time around. Their past failure does not count against them; on the contrary, it helps make them known and gives them a head start.I wonder if Italians have an attitude similar to the French, if that applies to papal contenders as well, and if that cultural difference contributed to the lack of US media attention to Cardinal Bergoglio.

Claire:The Italian press didn't mention Cardinal Bergoglio either. Did Le Figaro or Le Monde?

Not that I know of. But where do they get their information, I wonder?

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