Thursday, April 4, 2013


It takes a lot to disrupt the rhythm of work at my newsroom. We are a daily newspaper, and for most of the reporters, deadline is always looming.

But on a Wednesday afternoon three weeks ago, white smoke from the Sistine Chapel brought our workday to a standstill.

I am the only Catholic in the newsroom, and some of the editors began to pepper me with questions: how long until we know? What are the odds it'll be an American? Who are some of the front-runners?

I told them what I knew, then spent the next 20 minutes with my other half on the phone, glued to both the TV and my computer. Whenever something big happens in the news, I immerse myself in social media. It's an incredible way to gauge the world's pulse. But I digress.

Habemus papam!

Finally. Finally the Chair of Peter was filled. The uncertainty and waiting were behind us now.

I remember the first time I heard the name Jorge Bergoglio. "What?" I asked aloud, as if the cardinal making the announcement would repeat it for me. "Who is that?"

Of all the names I had read and studied since the announcement of Pope Benedict's resignation a month before, Bergoglio's wasn't one. He was brand new to me and, judging by the muted reaction from the crowd, I wasn't alone.

But like many, in the scramble to learn as much as I could as fast as I could, I grew to like him.

And when the smiling, easygoing Pope Francis bowed before the crowd in St. Peter's Square to ask for their prayers, my heart swelled with hope.

In the days immediately following his election, just about everyone buzzed about this gentle, but uncompromising Jesuit from Buenos Aires. And to my great surprise, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, even among those in my life who are fallen away or non-Catholic.

He had reached them already with his unassuming acts of love.

Only three weeks into his papacy now, Francis is still causing ripples across the Church and the rest of the world. Some are incredulous at his unprecedented break with (small "t") tradition. Some are hopeful it means the Church will change her teaching. Others are convinced he will reverse much of the good accomplished by Benedict.

I try to ignore all that. What I know for sure is that the Holy Spirit will always protect the Church, whether Francis succeeds or fails.

But from what I've seen so far, I believe God has given us just the man we need right now. I say to the doubters what he said to us just a few days ago: "Don't let anyone rob you of hope."

I won't.

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