Habemus Papam: we have a pope
At 7:07 p.m., local time, a puff of white smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City to signal Catholics around the world had a new Pope to lead their church.
In Maple Ridge, Marko Jakus, 11 and Jorecho Lulu, 12, charged out of their classrooms to St. Patrick’s Church to ring the bells for five minutes.
Echoes boomed through the empty building as the classmates tugged on the long rope to toll the cluster of bells.
At the entrance of the church, Lulu pointed to two posters, with tiny pictures of each of the popes who’ve led the Catholic church since St. Peter.
Stapled to the end of it, a photograph of the last pope – Benedict XVI.
“It’s been 600 years since a pope’s resigned,” says Jakus, pleased he got to herald in the newest Bishop of Rome - a 76-year-old cardinal from Argentina, the first South American to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
At St. Patrick’s Catholic School, the students were lucky – the cardinals who’d been casting secret ballots since Tuesday afternoon made their choice in time for lunch.
Teachers turned their computers on to stream the announcement live.
“It was kind of slow at the beginning,” said Ethan Brown, to the nods of his class mates, who like millions of Catholics across the world waited with bated breath to hear the name of the new pope.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced Ber-GOAL-io), will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Replacing Pope Benedict, who resigned because of old age, Pope Francis is the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church and also the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years.
Steeped in ritual and history, the conclave began Tuesday with a procession of 115 cardinals, all dressed in red robes, reciting a Gregorian chant.
Each took an oath of secrecy. Then the doors of the Sistine Chapel were sealed shut.
At St. Patrick’s, the Grade 6 class got to learn about the rules and rituals that date back centuries.
“He’s the leader of our church,” says Francis Limpin, explaining just what a “pope” means to Catholics, the largest denomination of Christians in the world.
Limpin and his classmates also discussed what kind of qualities they’d like in a new pope.
“He should be honest,” says Limpin
“And listen to what others want.”
“He should be in good health,” adds Brown. “So he last longer.”
As the cardinals assembled to begin the secret conclave, Madeleine Hessels and her family visited the website Adopt a Cardinal, which assigned a random “prince of the church” to them to pray for. The Hessels asked God to help Portuguese cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro win the conclave votes.
“We had to pray for him and hope that he became the pope,” explained Hessels, 11.
Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller greeted news of the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio with “absolute delight at the wisdom of the choice.”
Archbishop Miller believes the new pope is someone who embodies the church’s commitment to the poor and disenfranchised, pointing to both Bergoglio’s own background and his choice of the name Pope Francis.
Although he could have lived in the more plush setting of an archbishop’s residence, Bergoglio chose to stay in a simple apartment in Buenos Aries and took the bus to work.
“By honouring St. Francis of Assisi, possibly the best known saint in the world, our new pope seems to be expressing his intention to emphasize personal simplicity and love of the poor,” Archbishop Miller said in a statement.
“The new pope brings extensive pastoral experience, remarkable intellectual skills, and a love for the simplicity of the Gospel that our world urgently needs reminding of.”
The new pope, however, inherits a church besot with an array of challenges, including a shortage of priests and a sexual abuse crisis.
Hours after he was elected, Francis I was already being criticized for his conservative views on same sex marriage and the ordination of women.