Belfast Telegraph

Monday 3 August 2015

Faithful rejoice as Pope Francis I takes charge

Visibly stunned Argentinian cardinal is the surprise choice as new leader of world’s 1.2 billion Catholics

By Michael Day

Published 14/03/2013 | 04:20

Pope Francis blesses the crowd from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican (AP)
Pope Francis blesses the crowd from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican (AP)
People walk past a sand sculpture of the new pope at the Golden Sea beach on the Bay of Bengal coast in Puri, Orissa state, India (AP)
The new pope waves to the crowds from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican (AP)
White smoke billows from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected (AP)
FILE - This Oct. 27, 2011 file photo shows Pope Benedict XVI (little figure in white in background) attending a peace meeting with other religious leaders in front of the St. Francis Basilica in Assisi, central Italy, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011. At the moment Cardinal Albino Luciani learned his colleagues had elected him pope, he responded, "May God forgive you for what you've done.'' The remark, by the man who became Pope John Paul I, was seen as an expression of humility, but also a commentary on the mammoth task ahead. There is no job like that of the pope. He is the CEO of a global enterprise, head of state, a moral voice in the world and, in the eyes of Roman Catholics, Christ's representative on earth. The man who emerges as pontiff from the conclave starting Tuesday has a crushing to-do list as he leads the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, files)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12: Nuns walk through St Peter's Square on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12: A pilgrim prays in St Peter's Square as cardinals attend mass before entering the conclave on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12: A pilgrim prays in St Peter's Square as cardinals attend mass before entering the conclave on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 12: A pilgrim prays in St Peter's Square as cardinals attend mass before entering the conclave on March 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVIÄôs successor is being chosen by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. The 115 cardinal-electors, meeting in strict secrecy, will need to reach a two-thirds-plus-one vote majority to elect the 266th Pontiff. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 12: American Cardinals wave to seminarians at the North American College who line the road to watch as they head to St. Peter's Basilica where a Pro eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass will be celebrated before the Cardinals enter the Conclave to decide who the next pope will be on March 12, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start in the afternoon inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 12: American Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan gestures before boarding a bus to take him and other Cardinals from the North American College to St. Peter's Basilica where a Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass will be celebrated before they enter the Conclave to decide who the next pope will be on March 12, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start in the afternoon inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY- MARCH 12: American Cardinals walk to a bus to take them from the North American College to St. Peter's Basilica where a Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass will be celebrated before they enter the Conclave to decide who the next pope will be on March 12, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start in the afternoon inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 11: A member of The Swiss Guard closes the gate at the Arch of the Bells at St Peter's Basilica on March 11, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Cardinals are set to enter the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave is scheduled to start on March 12 inside the Sistine Chapel and will be attended by 115 cardinals as they vote to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A nun walks inside St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Monday, March 11, 2013.
Two cardinals walk past Swiss guards as they leave after a meeting at the Vatican to set a date for the conclave to elect a new pope (AP)
Pope Francis waves from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican (AP)
Pope Francis prays inside St Mary Major Basilica in Rome (AP/L'Osservatore Romano)
An Indian sand artist finishes a sculpture of the new pope in Puri, Orissa state, India (AP)

A rainswept but packed St Peter's Square erupted with joy and not a little shock last night as clouds of white smoke told the crowds – and the rest of the world – that a new pontiff had been chosen on just the second day of voting.

But the noise that greeted the billowing smoke at 7.06pm was nothing compared to the sound that met Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires when he appeared on the balcony as the latest successor of St Peter and leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

By 8.10pm local time when the newly-elected Pope Francis emerged in white papal robes to cheers of "Viva il Papa" ("Long live the Pope"), the crowds stretched back from the Piazza to the end of Via della Conciliazi-one, the 500-metre long road connecting the Vatican to the Tiber.

Cheering wildly, some of the faithful were so excited they downed their umbrellas despite the driving rain. Others burst into tears. One weeping nun was mouthing the words "Che meraviglia" ("How wonderful").

The name of the new pontiff had been announced in Latin moments earlier by the French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran after he had declared "Habemus papam" ("We have a Pope").

Ten minutes later Francis I – the first from outside Europe in modern times, and the first Jesuit pontiff – appeared on the balcony looking vaguely stunned.

But within a minute or so he composed himself and spoke.

"Brothers and sisters, good evening. Thank you for the welcome." He even made a little joke, noting the cardinals had gathered to pick a bishop of Rome "but have chosen one from far away – but here I am".

Then he said: "Before everything, I would like to make a prayer for our emeritus bishop Benedict," in reference to his predecessor who quit last month.

After Francis's appearance, a brass band made up of the Vatican gendarmerie played in the square below next to helmeted Swiss guards and various divisions of the Italian military, who had earlier exchanged traditional greetings on the steps of the church.

After the burst of music Pope Francis I said: "Good night and rest well," before disappearing.

The choice of an Argentine pontiff seemed well-received by Church insiders. Father Giulio Albanese, director of the Catholic Missionary News Service Agency, said: "He is an extraordinary man: a Jesuit and a person with the ability to make the changes needed in the Church."

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said he was "struck by the simplicity" of the new pontiff.

The new Pope adopted the name of Francis, one of the Church's most revered saints who was a beggar in 13th-century Italy. The name is widely interpreted as sign of humility.

Since suffering an infection as a teenager, the 76-year-old has lived with only one functioning lung, although he is said to be in good physical shape.

Ahead of the surprise election of the Argentine cardinal, two figures were tipped: Italy's Angelo Scola (71) – who would have been the first Italian Pope for 35 years – and Brazilian Odilo Scherer.

Yesterday morning support for both was said to be slipping due to reminders of past scandals. Cardinal Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, was said by some to be too close to figures embroiled in an emerging health contracts scandal in the northern city. And links to the ultra-conservative Catholic lobbying group Communion and Liberation were not said to be helping his chances.

La Repubblica said Cardinal Scherer (63), archbishop of Sao Paolo, might be tainted by links to the scandal-hit Vatican Bank.

With news of the speedy choice of Benedict's successor, some pundits began to read more into Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi's comments earlier in the day that election of a pontiff could be days or hours away.

One leading Vaticanologist, Alberto Melloni, said the white smoke after the final vote of the day had seemed more likely due to the longer-than-usual time it had taken to complete earlier rounds.

Predecessor Benedict XVI was the clear front-runner in 2005 and elected after only four ballots.

Last night, the Church of Ireland's Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, assured the new Pope of his prayers as he begins his new ministry.

"He has been a champion of the needs of the poor and dispossessed, and, in the simplicity of his own lifestyle, he has sought to reflect the life of the much-loved saint whose name he now carries in the future, Saint Francis," he said.

"As the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Armagh, I extend also to Cardinal Sean Brady, to Jesuit friends throughout the island and to all the Roman Catholic people of Ireland, our best wishes, with the hopes and prayers of many fellow-Christians, as Pope Francis now embarks on the ministry to which he has been called."

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