Thanks to PopeAlarm.com, I knew at 1:18 pm Central Daylight Time today that the white smoke was billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, probably within about 10 minutes of its actually happening in Rome.
We don’t have any televisions at my office, so I turned on the radio. I wanted to hear the moment the name of the mystery man was announced. In 2005, I learned of the white smoke from LiveJournal–back in the day before everyone was on Facebook all the time. I had been on my computer, working on my MFA comprehensive exam. I ran to my living room (not much of a run in our tiny house in Metairie) and huddled on the couch and watched CNN for half an hour, waiting for the new pope to emerge on the balcony, praying, “Not Ratzinger. Anyone but Ratzinger.”
When Ratzinger came out, I cried.
Today, when Jorge Mario Bergolio was named, I had no idea who he was. My first efforts to Google him were fruitless because I heard “George Maria Pergollio,” which, of course, turned up nothing. He wasn’t on any of lists of top papal contenders that I had pulled up in separate tabs so I could immediately know who we were dealing with. I finally found this:
Also, NPR first told me Bergolio had chosen “Franciscus” as his name, which didn’t make much of an impression on me except that it was kind of weird. But Francis is one of my favorite saints. (Isn’t he one of everyone’s favorite saints?) A very compelling choice.
I’ve read that Bergolio is strongly anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, and anti-contraception–none of which should be a surprise in a pope. He’s anti-gay-adoption and apparently got some heat a few years ago when he called it a form of discrimination against children. I’d smack him for that one, too.
But he appears to be known for his simplicity of lifestyle. They all say that as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he chose to live in an apartment instead of a palace, he rode the bus instead of taking a chauffeured limousine, and he cooked his own meals. I find all of that very respectable, and refreshing. They also say he’s a champion for the poor; even better. I like this quotation attributed to him:
We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least.
His address to the faithful was endearing, from his opening line (in essence, “Hey, guys. I’m the pope. Oh, shit, I’m the pope!”), to his asking everyone to do him a favor and pray for him, to his leading the crowd in the Our Father and the Hail Mary–prayers everyone was guaranteed to know and be able to recite in unison.
I mean, look at this:
By the way, I have to say I’m surprised Bergolio wasn’t on the short list of cardinals most people expected to be the next pope, because rumor has it he was the runner up when Benedict was elected. I know we haven’t had that many conclaves in recent history, but c’mon. It just makes sense that if #1 steps down, #2 would be at least a contender if he’s still available.
We’ll see what he does. It is worth remembering that after Benedict was elected, he didn’t end up being nearly as bad as a lot of people (myself included) thought he would be. But in 2005, I couldn’t imagine God’s Rottweiler shepherding the flock as much as tearing out the sheep’s throats. Bergolio appears to be nobody’s Rottweiler. I’m glad.