The majority of folks from the Trenton Diocese were introduced to newly elected Pope Francis through watching television coverage or other forms of modern technology. However, three priests from the diocese, Father Javier A. Diaz, Father Daniel E. Kirk, and Father Caesar Rubiano, who are pursuing additional studies at various universities in Rome, had the advantage and privilege of witnessing the papal election up close and personal.
Let us build the Church with Francesco
When we were walking to Casa Santa Maria for lunch, after a long morning of classes at the Santa Croce University, my canon law history professor said, “Today we will have a new pope, this conclave won’t be long.”
The day was cold and wet, but the conclave at the Vatican was in everyone’s mind and conversations made it exciting. Actually, I wasn’t expecting this to happen so soon, so I decided to remain the afternoon studying in my room. My plan was to go the next day to wait for the white smoke to rise as the sign for a new pope.
While I was studying, my professor’s words were in my mind, and I could not concentrate on my reading, plus I was watching the chimney of the Sistine chapel on the Internet. Over and over the words, “Today we will have a new pope,” sounded in my mind while I read the same paragraph many times without understanding even a sentence. So, I decided to listen, not only to my professor’s words, but to my heart. At 6 p.m., under the rain, I decided to go to St. Peter’s Square.
Bus 64 was more packed than ever. I don’t really know how I got in. It was an uncomfortable ride, and I felt like a sardine in a can. Most of the passengers were going to the Vatican. Traffic was heavy, more than usual, and the conversations in the bus were about the expectation of the new pope. When we arrived at the Vatican stop we didn’t care about the rain or the cold, we just ran toward the square looking to see, from far away, the chimney, with fearing the possibility that during the bus ride the smoke would come out. I was relieved when I confirmed that nothing had happened before my arrival at the square.
A sense of faith was everywhere at the “piazza,” I would say. I could smell it, faith was everywhere. Just the experience of being there, with all this crowd from many countries, it was renewing. I was surrounded by five priests from England, three men from India and a French family, and, of course, many Italians. Just minutes after my arrival, I was speaking with many of them.
One cause united us, besides our faith. We wanted to welcome the next pope. In a moment this gave me the idea of having an experience of “Advent” in “Lent.” During these two or three hours I felt strongly the Church as “One,” and “Universal,” and embracing its mission of prayer and love.
The emotion of the crowd was indescribable when the white smoke came out. I know that most of you watched on your televisions, and you tried to imagin how exciting it was to be at Saint Peter’s Square, but being there myself, I could not imagine this before I experienced it. We were as a big family. We hugged each other. Smiles, tears of joy, praises… and many other expressions of a uncontainable joy filled our hearts.
I don’t know how long we waited, we had our hearts on fire, we wanted to see the pope and receive his first blessing as our Holy Father. Everybody’s eyes were on those doors; the whole world was watching.
Now as liturgically impossible as it is, for me it was like passing from “Advent” to “Easter,” when Francesco was in front of this huge crowd which represented the universal flock for our Shepherd. I saw a “Risen Church.” A new path of hope, of healing and restoration flowed from the name, Francesco; from a Pope who presented himself with a sign of humility in asking prayers from his people and bowing his head when his children asked from God blessings for him; a Holy Father who in his first appearance, as an invitation to unity and holiness, prayed with us the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Now I see again the Church as the Body of Christ; we have a new pope, Francesco.
I know that all of you rejoice with the Church. This is a great time for a New Evangelization. Jesus is with us, Peter is with us, and we are a flock with one shepherd. We are the Church of Jesus and he is blessing us in Francesco. Just remember the words that God spoke to St. Francesco: “Build my Church.” So let us be attentive to the guidance of Francesco, and let us build the Church.
Father Javier Diaz, a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, is pursuing a degree in canon law in Rome.
Welcoming a new pope who comes from the New World
On Tuesday evening, when the smoke began to pour out of the chimney installed on the Sistine Chapel, there was a brief moment of excitement which was quickly followed by disappointment. The smoke started out light in color, but then quickly became very dark. It became clear, we still had no pope.
On Wednesday evening, it was the opposite scenario. The smoke started out as being slightly dark in color, and people immediately thought that it was black. But then, it happened; the smoke turned white. The sense of anticipation that filled St. Peter’s Square was immediately replaced with a sense of pure exhilaration.
The crowd charged to the front. Screams of “Bianca, é bianca,” or “white, it’s white” rang through the air. National flags and giant signs showing support for the new Holy Father began to wave among the massive crowd to celebrate the news that the conclave was over and a new pope had been elected.
In the time of waiting after the white smoke a quiet curiosity began to settle into the crowd. It was on the fifth ballot, so did that mean it is one of the supposed frontrunners? What name will the new pope take? Will the rain let up by the time the announcement comes? These and other questions were being asked among the thousands packed into the square, waiting for the first glimpse of the newest man to don the white cassock.
The rain did indeed stop by the time Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran came into view to make his announcement to the world. “Habemus Papam,” those famous Latin words telling us that “we have a pope.” Cardinal Tauran continued by telling us who was selected and which name he had chosen. It was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who is now His Holiness Pope Francis.
The announcement spurred great conversation among those around me. It was not a name many recognized. It was not one of the cardinals talked about as a favorite. It was a bit of a shock. As we pulled our collective knowledge, the reality of the announcement became more and more amazing.
With Pope Francis, there are many firsts. He is the first pope from the New World. It is the first time that a Jesuit was selected as pope. The Jesuits are a religious order in the Catholic Church characterized by their zeal for spreading the faith through missionary work and education. Even the name of Francis is new, at least as far as popes are concerned. At this point, there was a temptation to wonder how many more firsts we will experience under this new Holy Father.
But all this questioning and confusion over the newness were quickly put to rest. Pope Francis came out onto balcony to great cheers and applause. His first address to his diocese and the world demonstrated that the new pope was the same as the old pope in the most important regard. He emphasized the necessity of prayer.
He started by asking all present to join him in praying for his predecessor.
“First of all I would like to say a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord will bless him and that Our Lady will protect him” said Pope Francis.
He then implored the faithful to pray for themselves and the world.
“Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.”
Though, the most impressive, and perhaps unexpected, petition for prayer came when he asked the crowd to pray in silence for God’s blessing upon himself. Here is the newly elected head of an entire religion, someone many would consider to have a direct line of communication with the divine, and he asks all of us, normal everyday people, to pray to God for him.
“Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me – the prayer of the people for their bishop. Let us say this prayer – your prayer for me – in silence,” said His Holiness.
We now wait to see what things the new Holy Father will do as he leads the Catholic Church. We wonder what, if any, changes he will make. But no matter what happens, by his first address as pope, we can be certain that prayer will play a central role in it all.
Father Daniel Kirk, a priest for the Diocese of Trenton, is completing studies for a licentiate in spirituality in Rome.
A joyful Church says welcome to Papa Francisco
Our Catholic Church returned Wednesday to demonstrate its ability to surprise its loyal and worldwide faithful. A month and two days after Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the pontificate, we finally met his successor: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who became the new Pope Francis.
The election of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires as Bishop of Rome and the 266th Holy Father, came as a huge surprise to the tens of thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter’s Square and the millions of others throughout the world who followed this historic moment from their TVs, Ipads, phones and other technical devices.
Choosing Archbishop Bergoglio represents a giant step in many aspects. He is the first “Latin American” and non-European man to be elected pope since the eighth century; he is the first Jesuit to reach the papacy, and he is first in 600 years to reach the throne of St. Peter, although his predecessor lives.
The choice of his name, Francis, is also a first.
Many were also surprised by Papa Francisco’s words when he spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica some time after 8 in the evening. In a clear and fluent Italian with slight Argentinean accent, he requested that we all pray his predecessor, Benedict XVI, a request which drew a round of applause from the pilgrims. He also spoke of how the main concern of his pontificate will be evangelization.
The Holy Father showed another sign of his humility when he asked the faithful to pray for him. In a rare and historical image, the new pope bowed his head as the more than 100,000 Catholics in the square and via de la Conciliacione, quietly prayed and asked God’s blessings be upon him.
Then, with a smile, he gave his first Urbi et Orbi blessing.
It also now known that the date for the inauguration of the new head of the worldwide Catholic Church will be March 19, which marks the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the Church and foster father of Jesus.
We are very happy to greet our new Holy Father, Papa Francisco. Let it be known that a vibrant community of faithful joyfully welcoms him with open arms, minds and hearts.
Father Caesar Rubiano, a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, is pursuing a degree in bioethics in Rome.[[In-content Ad]]