Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Election of Pope Francis leaves Ireland's Cardinal Brady giddy at 'profound, moving experience'

There was no other word for it, All-Ireland Primate Sean Brady was giddy. As he virtually skipped down the lawn of the Irish College to greet journalists, he was clearly still in the grip of post-conclave fever.

It was understandable, really.

It had been his first time to take part in the election of a Pope, having received his red hat from Benedict XVI in 2007 and, as conclave debuts go, this particular one was a doozy, producing Jorge Bergoglio with a conjuror's flourish akin to a rabbit being pulled from a mitre.

And Cardinal Sean was fizzing with enthusiasm over the whole pontifical process.

"It was a very profound and moving experience," the Archbishop of Armagh chattily explained as he posed for the photographers in the sunshine.

He then spoke about the past fortnight – a veritable whirl of confabulation as the cardinals sought to pick a winner.

"It's hard to get one's head around it, it's been all so intense," he admitted.

"Very moving as the votes were being (counted)... and suddenly the magic number was reached and there was applause," he recounted.

"Showing the kind of person he is, his first action was to go to a cardinal who was in a wheelchair at the back of the chapel, and to greet him.

"And I think it was amazingly touching," he added.

He also said he intended to invite the new Pope to Ireland.

Cardinal Sean admitted that he "didn't know him very well" – but one Irish cleric was fortunate to have had a sort of sneak preview of the man in action.

Fr Michael Kilmartin, from Mullingar, had travelled to Rome for the conclave, and had been as gobsmacked as everyone else in St Peter's Square when the Argentinian cardinal was unveiled as the new Pope, as he explained yesterday.

"I had a sheet of paper with little facts on all the cardinals, and all the priests and nuns and couples that were there were pulling it off me to find out about Cardinal Bergoglio," the priest laughed.

At least Fr Michael was one of the few in the huge crowd to recognise his face. He has been in Buenos Aires.

"I was there on a feast day when he celebrated Mass in the cathedral and then went on a procession, and I saw how much the man is so loved and respected in Buenos Aires and was a man of the people," he said.

And there were plenty of curious tourists wandering about the scene of the dramatic announcement yesterday, hoping perhaps to catch an unscheduled glimpse of Pope Francis.

But there were no sightings – unless one counts the very beginning of what surely will shortly be a proliferation of holy goodies bearing the visage of the new guy.

Already some stalls lining the Square were offering Pope Francis rosary beads and cards featuring hastily copied images of the pontiff on the balcony.

And the new merchandise was already doing brisk business. It's the Roman way – Popes may come and go, but making a few denarii is forever.

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