So, big surprise out of the conclave there, hm? Though I would have been surprised no matter what. I deliberately didn't research the papabile because I know how it goes. Whoever is considered a likely choice ends up not being it, and relatively often it's someone no one has heard of.
Here are some random thoughts on the conclave and our new Pope, in no particular order.
We watched the white smoke livestreaming online. Or rather, I watched while the kids whined and grabbed at me and destroyed the house. Sigh. And then the computer crashed and I spent five minutes restarting and freaking out that the announcement would come while I was struggling to get back to the website! But no worries. We had a long wait.
When the cardinal came out to make the announcement, my thoughts went like this: "Man, he looks dour. Either his pick didn't win, or he is cross about something else. George? Who's named George? Surely an English speaker then? Wait, that's an Italian last name. B-something. Not Bertone?! If it's Bertone I think I am going to have to give up on the idea that the Holy Spirit chooses the Pope, because the God I know would know better than to pick Bertone. But no, his first name's Tarcisio, not George. He chooses the name Francis?! That's a good sign for sure! Finally these announcers are telling us who it is ... and it's no one I've ever heard of. Okay, research time."
I think it's awesome that by the time I got to Wikipedia it had already been edited. "Jorge Bergoglio" redirected to "Pope Francis I" and then five minutes later to just "Pope Francis." (Pope Francis I is incorrect because there's no Francis II. That's like going by Joe Sr. if you don't have a son named Joe Jr.)
Pope Francis is the first New World pope, the first Jesuit pope, the first pope to choose the name Francis. He's from Argentina, 76 years old (right when people were expecting a younger pope), the son of a railway worker. Before entering seminary, he studied chemistry, and when out of favor with the leaders of the Jesuits, he worked as a high school science teacher. He's known for being quiet and a bit shy.
I am really excited about him for so many reasons. First of all his personal asceticism. He's famous for leaving the official bishop's residence empty and living in a small apartment and cooking his own meals. He used to take the bus instead of a limo or taxi. There are photos of him all over washing the feet of various people, including AIDS patients. In a time when we keep getting grief for the Pope's supposed wealth, I'm very excited to see someone who might cut down on all the pomp and circumstance. I don't believe it does any good.
He wasn't even Pope for a day before I saw him criticized on Facebook for not wearing a red cape and a gold pectoral cross when he appeared for the first time. Seriously? And now I'm in a debate with some people on Facebook over whether all those trappings (tiaras, red shoes, sedan chairs, ad infinitum) really do anyone any good, or if we'd be better off without them. I take the latter position. Did you know the Popes used to wear a triple crown and ride around on a giant sedan chair? I say, good riddance. It looks ridiculous and it gives entirely the wrong idea of what the Pope is all about. "Servant of the Servants of God" is the pope's oldest title ... and I am pretty sure St. Peter didn't ride through the streets of Rome on a sedan chair on the way to getting crucified upside-down.
Simcha Fisher did a great article about Pope Francis. "Pope Francis, future patron saint of the socially awkward. Oh, how we've needed you!" That was how I found out he went home from St. Peter's on the cardinal's bus and went out the next morning to pray at St. Mary Major ... and pick up his luggage and pay his hotel bill. I can just imagine those cardinals tagging along: "But Holy Father, you can't -- Holy Father, you don't have to -- Holy Father, let me carry -- oh, for heaven's sake!" That makes me smile.
So did First Things. "Cardinal Bergolio is an interesting figure and hard to place within the favored framework
of “conservatives versus liberals.” That is in any case an
ill-conceived opposition since it imports political or cultural
categories into a religious context where they really do not fit. It
also is especially ill-suited to Bergoglio, for seen from one
perspective he appears to conform to the “progressive” profile, being a
strong advocate of economic justice and compassion for the poor; but
viewed from another he appears a stout defender of traditional Catholic
teachings on sexual ethics and beginning- and end-of-life issues."
In other words, he is really Catholic, not left Catholic (super Catholic when it comes to caring for the poor, not so much into that doctrine stuff) or right Catholic (crazy about doctrine and liturgy, but thinks saying "get a job" is the same as caring for the poor). He's Catholic like me. And I like that.