Now begins the Papacy of Pope Francis I. There are, of course, so many different kinds of accolades being offered that one can hardly begin to speak about him without an exclamation point!
I was touched deeply as Pope Francis was introduced to the Church and the world and simply said with a smile: “Buona sera”- “Good Evening”—a heart-felt greeting of love to his people (almost a quarter million who had been standing in the cold and rain for hours). It was fatherly and it was magnificently sincere. He spoke to the people of the Diocese of Rome as their new bishop and led them (and us) in prayer for their bishop-emeritus, Benedict XVI. He encouraged the people of the Diocese of Rome about taking up a journey: Bishop and people.
I was moved that the Holy Father first spoke to the people of “his Diocese” before he spoke to the people of “the world.” Certainly the heart of the bishop was apparent as he spoke his first words to the City and to the World—Urbi et Orbi. Every bishop knows the deep feeling he has for the Diocese over which he is called as pastor and shepherd. His words to the Diocese of Rome, “which presides in charity over all the Churches,” was spoken from the heart of a pastor and father.
In humility, he asked the people to pray for him and his ministry—not just “tonight before you go to bed,” or “the next time you go to church”—pray now. He bowed in the silence that was heard around the world as we prayed for our new shepherd and leader. It showed a humble man, yes; but, definitely, a man ready to act in the moment.
Finally, the picture above is the first action of the new Pope as he went to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The photo shows him praying before the image of Our Lady—Salus Populi Romani—the Protector [Health] of the People of Rome—where he laid a simple bouquet of flowers in Her honor. This is a revered custom of Popes and once again gives evidence of his love for his people locally. It further communicates, however, one of my favorite mantras to the entire Church: “the greatest gift a father can give his children, is to love their mother.” This shows the stature of the Pope named Francis.
Finally, on this first day, we come to what I consider to be one of the clearest clues as to why this Pope chose the name Francis. This is the ending of his homily to the College of Cardinals gathered for the first Papal Mass of his reign in the Sistine Chapel.
When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.
My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.
Long live the Pope!