‘Buona sera,’ Pope Francis

Newly elected Pope Francis checks out of the church-run residence March 14 where he had stayed in Rome. The pope returned to the residence where he stayed before becoming pontiff and insisted on paying the bill, despite now effectively being in charge of the business, the Vatican said. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Newly elected Pope Francis checks out of the church-run residence March 14 where he had stayed in Rome. The pope returned to the residence where he stayed before becoming pontiff and insisted on paying the bill, despite now effectively being in charge of the business, the Vatican said. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Habemus papam — we have a pope!

An hour after the white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, the world learned the name of the man who was elected to be the 265th successor to St. Peter: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Jesuit cardinal of Buenos Aires. He chose the name Francis.

It was on that day, Wednesday March 13, when Catholics around the world rejoiced with an outpouring of love and praise for God. For as it goes, the College of Cardinals guided the Holy Spirit to elect the next leader of the world’s 1 billion Catholics. It was after just five ballots that the humble, gentle cardinal stepped out onto the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square as Pope Francis, greeting the world with the words: “Buona sera” — good evening.

And the crowd went crazy.

By all accounts, the world’s reaction to our new Holy Father has been nothing short of irrepressible joy. Here is a Jesuit (a first) from Latin America (another first) who has demonstrated throughout his clerical life a love for Christ that is manifest in his compassion for the least of us, his defense of the Catholic faith, and his servant leadership.

Famously he is a “man of the people” who embraces his vow of poverty, casting aside the luxuries due to a cardinal. He would ride the bus to and from his modest apartment, where he cooked and cleaned for himself. His decision to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi — a great reformer devoted to a life of poverty — has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

St. Francis had one rule that he gave to his followers, the friars: “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in His footsteps.”

Pope Francis has already made waves in just the hours following his election. For example, he rode the bus back from the Sistine Chapel with his brother cardinals. He paid the bill for his hotel room stay in Rome and carried his own luggage. He didn’t want a special seat when he sat down for dinner. And in another sign of humility, he asked for the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square the night of March 13 for their prayers that the Lord bless him — “the prayer of the people for the blessing of their bishop” — before the traditional blessing from him upon the people.

We join with the world in congratulating Pope Francis. We are elated for this humble man to lead us as our Holy Father. We ask that our readers join us in praying for the Lord’s blessing upon Pope Francis, and that he leads us “to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in His footsteps.”