Pope Francis: looking back on his election

2014-03-13 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) St. Peter’s Square was a sea of humanity – citizens, out-of-towners & foreigners, everyone suddenly alike a pilgrim - and late afternoon had given way to twilight, and now, night had fallen over the city of Rome. Then, suddenly, at 7:05 PM Rome Time, smoke appeared from the top of the stove-pipe chimney erected above the Sistine Chapel. Gray at first, and emerging by starts, the smoke in short order began to pour forth in great billows – unmistakably white, now – the traditional signal that the cardinals in conclave had elected a new bishop of Rome, and that their choice had accepted his election – but the bells that all had been told to expect in confirmation of the signal had yet to be heard. When they did come, Vatican Radio’s Susy Hodges made the call, live on air. Listen:

Fr. Michael Rogers, SJ, who was a deacon just a few months shy of priestly ordination on that day, had been in the Vatican Radio studios earlier in the day, for the black smoke at the end of the inconclusive morning session. Now, he was in the Square. “None of us expected it would actually happen that night,” he recently recalled in a conversation with Vatican Radio looking back on the heady days of the papal transition period that culminated in the first-ever election of one of his confreres to the See of Peter.

A year on, and the Church and the world are still feeling the “Francis Effect” – a phenomenon as palpably real as it is difficult to quantify or qualify. “I think it’s a matter of excitement,” Fr. Rogers SJ offered, adding, “I think it’s a matter of recapturing imaginations.” Asked about the attempt among some in communications media to construct a narrative of opposition between the papacy of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, Fr. Rogers SJ said that the facts tell a quite different story: of deep continuity rooted in mutual affection and esteem. “You look at these two men, and it is clear that these two men are friends,” he said.