By Timothy J. Smith
The bells on the campus of Saint Mary’s University rang long and loud on Wednesday, March 13, as the announcement of the new leader of the Holy Roman Catholic Church was made.
Students, faculty, seminarians, priests, religious brothers and sisters waited in excited anticipation as white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. This proclamation of the College of Cardinals in Rome, guided by the Holy Spirit, announced the 266th successor to Saint Peter the Apostle.
The Church was blessed by the leadership of former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires Argentina, who chose the papal name Francis in honor of the beloved Italian Saint Francis of Assisi.
“It was a touching and emotional experience,” said Brother Pat Conway, FSC. Many students watched the emergence of the new pope in class by streaming online media.
As stated in Matthew 16:18, Jesus Christ instituted the papacy over 2,000 years ago when he chose Saint Peter as the first leader of the Holy Catholic Church. Pope Francis is the representative of Jesus Christ on earth not just for Catholics, but the whole world. His selection as the new Holy Father includes several firsts in the history of the papacy. He is the first pope from the America’s and also the first who is a member of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.
One of his first actions as Supreme Pontiff was a humble request from the whole world to join him in prayer. The elevation of Pope Francis is a great source of joy and sign of hope for the Church, which looks forward to continuing its mission at bringing people into communion with Jesus Christ in the third millennium.
Pope Francis shares a great love for the poor and those in need, much like the founder Saint John Baptist de la Salle. Pope Francis lived a simple life while Archbishop of Buenos Aires, including riding the bus to work and wearing an ordinary priest’s robe. He also lived in a simple apartment where he cooked his own meals, rather than living in the luxurious residence where he was entitled to have servants.