Derechos | Equipo Nizkor
A Surprise Choice From Afar, Winning Over Some Skeptics
Twenty minutes had passed, maybe 30, and the white smoke had finally stopped billowing out of the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel, and the bells had stopped clanging. Outside St. Peter's Basilica, thousands of people huddled under umbrellas, ensnared in a strange limbo, waiting to learn the identity of their new pope.
Two Roman priests, the Rev. Adriano Furgoni and the Rev. Maurizio Piscola, stood together, both a bit nervous, given their rooting interest. They wanted the Austrian cardinal, Christoph Schönborn, considered a progressive. Father Piscola even pulled out his cellphone to show off a recent text message from the cardinal bearing a special prayer.
The rain kept coming in a steady drizzle as a thought suddenly struck Father Furgoni, 69. "It is the first time I'm going to see a pope younger than me!" he declared, excited.
For that was the promise of the moment, a promise sending a current of anticipation through the crowds pouring into St. Peter's Square from across the ancient city. The bells and the white smoke had announced that the cardinals had selected a new pope, and soon he would step onto the balcony of St. Peter's, a fresh face, expected to be a younger man, perhaps charismatic, to guide a church faced with crises and in disarray.
When the window opened, the expectant crowd roared. People waved national flags from Spain, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Italy and the Philippines. "Papa! Papa! Papa!" came the shouts.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, a senior official, appeared and uttered the familiar Latin phrase "Habemus Papam!" -- "We have a pope!" Then the name of the new pope: Francis. And finally the name of the cardinal who was now the pope: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, archbishop of Buenos Aires.
"Mamma mia!" a startled Father Furgoni shouted. "Bergoglio?" He struggled to hide his disappointment.
"An Argentine!" Father Piscola shouted.
"I didn't expect it, I didn't expect it," Father Furgoni muttered, shaking his head. "And he is also old!"
A confused, stunned silence settled over the huge crowd. Cardinal Bergoglio? Many people expected the Italian cardinal, Angelo Scola of Milan, or the Brazilian, Odilo Pedro Scherer. But Bergoglio? He had been passed over in 2005, reportedly as the runner-up to Benedict XVI.
"We don't know him," Father Piscola said.
Father Furgoni said, "He has a reputation as a very tough man."
Father Furgoni fidgeted in the rain, moving from side-to-side, rubbing his fingers through his shock of white hair, staring up at the huge television screens as he awaited his new pope.
"We're going to love him," he finally said. "But poor him."
A few minutes more, and then cheers arose as Pope Francis stepped through the red curtains onto the balcony and looked out on the thousands and thousands of people who had come to greet him. For a few moments, the new pope stood in the light, barely moving, stiff and expressionless.
"Brothers and sisters," he finally began, speaking in clear Italian. "Good evening."
The two priests fell quiet with the crowd. If the pope is the leader of the universal church, he is also the bishop of Rome, and his first remarks were those of a bishop to his flock.
"You know that it was the duty of the conclave to give Rome a bishop," he told the crowd. "It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one."
It was a small joke from the new Argentine pope. The crowd, filled with many Romans, laughed.
"I thank you for your welcome," he continued. He offered a prayer to Benedict, and, as he prepared to bless the people, he did a small, unexpected thing.
"I ask a favor of you," he said. Would the people of Rome pray for God to bless him before he blessed them? He bowed in an unexpected gesture of humility. "Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me."
The two priests, startled, lowered their heads, and this time a different silence filled the square. Moments passed and then the new pope blessed the masses. A man bellowed out "Viva il Papa!" and the crowd responded, shouting out the name of their new pope.
"Francesco! Francesco! Francesco!" they chanted in Italian.
His appearance seemed over, but Francis asked for the microphone once more. He smiled broadly and wished for the crowd to have "a good night, and have a good rest." He seemed as much a grandfather as a pope.
Father Furgoni was fidgeting again, twitching, but this time with excitement.
"He conquered me!" the priest proclaimed. "The fact that he was so simple. And the fact that he spoke as the bishop of Rome. I can't remember the pope asking to be blessed by the people, rather than him blessing the people first."
The crowds were singing, or waving flags, or buzzing with chatter. Television reporters were thrusting microphones at people, asking for reaction. People slowly began to depart, squeezing through the gates, everyone backlit by the lights of St. Peter's glowing in the night. For a moment, at least, the problems pressing down on the church seemed lifted, even for the two priests who did not get the Austrian pope they had wanted only minutes earlier.
"I expect big changes," Father Furgoni now predicted, suddenly confident, as he turned to leave. "I'm really moved."
Father Piscola agreed. "Great humility," he said of the new pope. "Strong in his faith."
The Argentine pope also demonstrated one other trait that seemed to please his Roman flock. "He spoke excellent Italian," one woman said.
[Source: By Jim Yardley, The New York Times, Vatican City, 13Mar13]
DDHH en Argentina
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