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The name and the words

A name and a few simple words to show Rome and the world the new Successor of the Apostle Peter, who has blown away weeks of prognostics, as numerous as they were visibly unfounded. And once again the Catholic Church, through an exemplarily responsible electoral college, has shown herself to be capable of a choice that enters history because of its courageous newness.

Indeed, after thirteen centuries (that is, since the time of Gregory III and of his Predecessors who came from Syria), a Bishop has been elected for Rome who does not come from the continent of Europe; but that is not all: for the first time the Pope comes from America and from the Society of Jesus, the religious order founded by St Ignatius of Loyola at the dawn of the modern epoch to adhere to the radicalism of Christ.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, said – after accepting his election in the Conclave – with a determination likewise unprecedented in the history of papal successions, that he wanted to be called Francis. The Roman Pontiff has thus chosen a name which became Christian thanks to the Saint of Assisi, who was recognized by his contemporaries as a “second Christ” ( alter Christus ).

It is a name so symbolically evocative that it recurs uniquely in the hopes of a great many people, Catholics, and yet to a certain extent also those who do not visibly belong to the Church: revealing hopes and wishes that say a lot about what is expected of those who profess faith in Christ.  And this was understood by a St Peter's Square awash with cold rain, yet filled to overflowing with expectation, as later, were many headlines and media comments.

It was John Paul II, who was followed in this by his Successor, who spoke a few words “off the cuff” straight after the traditional announcement of the election. Pope Francis however first prayed in a new way: for Benedict XVI “that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may keep him”, reciting the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory be , while his request to the people for silent prayer to invoke God's blessing on his new bishop was unheard of and stunning.

Thus the almost unreal silence that descended on the crowd before the solemn blessing was the only echo of the ancient and new words spoken by Pope Francis; to mark the way of his Church, which presides over the other Churches in charity, in the words of the Martyr, Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch. It is an approach of brotherhood, love and trust open to all men and women of good will, whom the new Bishop of Rome blessed.

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St. Peter’s Square

Oct. 15, 2019

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