New Pope Makes Unexpected Stop to Pray at Altar of St. Pius V
(ROME) As thousands of members of
the press here in Rome made their collective dash to crank out
copy and file rapid reports on the new pope, I found myself
disposed to hold off at least until the smoke over the Sistine
Chapel had cleared. After all, it’s difficult to form an
objective opinion of a man engulfed in half-baked reports and
rumors from “reliable sources” all over the world.
What I can personally verify is
that, true to form, the prognosticators were wrong. I’ve been
here in Rome for well over a week and during the run-up to the
conclave, one name we didn’t hear mentioned inside the Holy
See’s media center or indeed anywhere else in this city was
Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio—the 76-year-old who last night
became the first Jesuit to ascend to the Chair of St. Peter.
Pope Francis is an Argentine, of
course, who served as provincial of the Society of Jesus and
Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Hardly a Vatican insider, he reportedly kept his distance from
the Roman Curia—a policy that may stand him in good stead to act
decisively on the matter of the 300-page dossier on the Vatileaks scandal which Pope Benedict entrusted to his successor
and which allegedly details wide spread corruption among the
He’s known to have a strong devotion
to the Blessed Mother (is said to pray fifteen decades of the
rosary every day), and in fact called upon Our Lady several
times from the loggia during his first message to the world last
night. This morning one of his first papal acts was to make a
pilgrimage to the Basilica Santa Maria Maggoire. There he
placed flowers on Mary’s altar and knelt for several long
moments in prayer. If externals mean anything, our Holy
Father’s devotion to the Mother of God is as genuine as it is
touching, which, of course, bodes well for him and for us all.
Over the years he has distinguished
himself as a champion of Christian marriage, speaking out
courageously against his own government’s stand in favor of
so-called “gay marriage”. He’s also an outspoken defender of the
unborn. These are two happy realities that will most assuredly
put our new pope at odds with the modern world, which is always
a good thing. There is no greater social or moral threat to our
civilization today than that presented by the international
warriors against the Christian family. At least in this arena,
it seems the forces of evil will have a force with which to be
reckoned in Pope Francis.
Rumors and reports on the Internet
create a far less positive impression of him where the question
of the Traditional Latin Mass is concerned. Initial reports
have it that Cardinal Bergoglio was not enthusiastic about Pope
Benedict’s muto proprio Summorum Pontificum and that he actively
blocked good priests who wanted to start offering the old Mass.
It remains to be seen where Pope Francis stands on this
question, but obviously it would be unthinkable for the new pope
to undo the work of his predecessor where the Latin Mass is
On the other hand, there are other reports
emerging now which tell quite a different story, and that
is that Cardinal Bergoglio did not block the old Latin Mass and
in fact set up at least a church in his
diocese for its celebration. Has this been verified? Not
definitively, however, we've already unearthed one
which has it that within 48 hours
after Summorum Pontificum Cardinal Bergoglio had already
approved St. Michael's parish in downtown Buenos Aires for the
purpose of offering the old Mass.
There is a photograph flying around
the internet at warp speed that appears to be of Cardinal
Bergoglio receiving a blessing from a Protestant minister.
Unsettling? Sure, but it now turns out that Cardinal Bergolio
was in fact kneeling to receive a blessing from a Catholic
priest when said Protestant minister stepped in to add his own
Another criticism that’s gone viral
is that when the new pope paid his respects to his predecessor
gfrom the loggia last night he neglected to use the title “pope”
but rather referred to Benedict as “bishop of Rome”. Scandal?
No. Benedict XVI is still very much alive and has an official
title: “His Holiness Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome”. In
other words, the new Pope got it exactly right.
A couple of hopeful tidbits: During
the Holy Father’s first Mass in the Sistine Chapel today he was
carrying the crosier of Pope Pius IX, the sacred music was all
traditional, there were no women lectors, and the Mass was as
dignified as the Novus Ordo can be. Of course, this Mass
presumably would have been arranged beforehand and for whoever
was chosen; but I was gratified to see it nevertheless.
Even more hopeful, as Pope Francis
made his way through Santa Maria Maggiore today
he quite unexpectedly stopped at the tomb of St Pope Pius V to
kneel and pray to the champion of the Council of Trent and
the Tridentine Mass. Make of this what you will.
Tomorrow there will be a papal
audience for members of the press. I will be there to watch,
listen and hopefully gain a better sense of who this man is. I
will also attend the Angelus on Sunday for the same reason. As
far as I’m concerned, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio is no more and it
is time to acquaint ourselves with His Holiness Pope Francis.
I remain hopeful, despite my initial
sense of dread last night when it was announced that a South
American Jesuit would be the new successor of St. Peter. Perhaps
my dread will prove to have been warranted. Please God let
it not be so. In the meantime the grace of office and the
mysterious workings of the Holy Ghost can and often do change
everything, as the example of Pope Pius IX bears out— the
liberal cardinal who quite unexpectedly became the great papal hammer of
So forgive me for not combing the
Internet for evidence of all the faults and missteps of Cardinal
Bergoglio. At this moment, I feel obligated before God to
add my humble prayers to those of all the loyal sons and daughters
of the Holy Father throughout the whole world for him. May God
grant him the strength to restore order to our Church in chaos
and the faith to lead the world out of the valley of the shadow
of death and into the light of Christ our King.
Habemus Papam. Long Live the Pope!