At 1:05 p.m. Iowa time Wednesday, Francis, the 266th Holy Roman Pope, was elected by the College of Cardinals. Slightly more than an hour later, he emerged on the loggia — the papal balcony — of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected at the conclusion of the fifth round of voting held in the historic Sistine Chapel. His presence on the papal balcony was met with thunderous cheering from thousands of faithful who filled St. Peter’s Square below.
“And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust,” he said. “Let us always pray for one another.”
“Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood,” he added. “My hope is that this journey of the Church that we begin today, together with help of my Cardinal Vicar, be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city.”
He then asked those in attendance for a “prayer of the people for their Bishop” before ending his appearance with the traditional benediction.
The Most Reverend Martin Amos, Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport — to which the Catholic churches of Jasper County belong — was jubilant in his initial reaction.
“I announce a great joy to you; we have a Pope,” he posted to the diocese’s official website shortly after the announcement. “The most Eminent and most Reverend, Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio of the Holy Roman Church, who has taken the name of Francis.”
Amos pointed out the “many challenges” the new pontiff will face, including reform of the Curia, or church leadership; lagging church attendance; the role of women in the church; and evangelization. He also acknowledged the new Pope will likely not make everyone in the church happy with the direction he takes.
“Like any pastor ... [h]e will not do what everyone expects or wants him to do. He will not meet all of our expectations,” he said. “That is alright because it is not about us and what we want. It is about Christ who is the source of our unity, the one who binds us together.”
“Please join me in prayer in thanksgiving to God for Pope Francis, for our Church – the People of God, and for the many blessings we receive by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ,” Amos added.
Francis’ election was the result of a conclave of the College of Cardinals gathered in Vatican City, which convened Tuesday following the abdication of Benedict XVI on Feb. 28. The 115 members of the conclave had failed to come to a consensus — a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes, were necessary to be elected — regarding a new pontiff that evening.
Wednesday morning, all eyes were fixed upon a small chimney erected above the roof of the Sistine Chapel, only to see more black smoke — indicative of two more inconclusive rounds of voting — emerge around 6 a.m. Iowa time Wednesday. A second voting session, which resulted in the successful fifth ballot, began at approximately 10:50 a.m. Iowa time.
Vatican City is six hours ahead of Iowa time.
As the white smoke emerged from the chimney, a bell at St. Peter’s began ringing to signal a new “Holy Father” had been selected. Fr. Bill Reynolds, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Newton, gave his thoughts following the papal election.
He said he was among the millions around the world who took “great interest” in learning the identity of the next Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Church. He said Pope Francis was “totally unknown” to him prior to the papal election.
But the new pontiff’s first address to the faithful certainly made an impression upon the local pastor.
“His words on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica were calm and reserved, certainly not effusive,” he said. “He appears to be a humble man, as he asked the thousands of people gathered in Piazza San Pietro to take a moment in silent prayer for him. Several media outlets have indicated that he takes a public bus to his office. He is a Jesuit, no doubt well educated and articulate.”
Reynolds said it is a sign of the “universality of the church” that a non-European was selected. He added he wasn’t surprised to learn the new Pope was 76 years old, though. He did not expect the College of Cardinals to select anyone who would likely reign for 25 years or more like Pope John Paul II.
“The excitement of the election is over,” he said. “Now is his time to pastor the people of God, leading them through holiness of life on this earth to life eternal in heaven. May God bless him in his service to God and God’s people.”
Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.