White Smoke And Saint Francis

This afternoon I was focusing on the task at hand as the winter sunlight filtered through my office window blinds.  In the next office where my Administrative Assistants were “working”, I heard the outcry—“White smoke! There’s white smoke!

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Of course the white smoke referred to the Vatican and Rome as a new Pope was chosen.  Since the excitement was gaining momentum in the office I laid aside my “important work” and logged onto the London Telegraph’s live feed for the next hour-plus as the camera scanned the faces of the very young and very old at St. Peter’s.

National flags waved. I saw one USA flag, but no Union Jacks being waved in the crowd of thousands and thousands.


From time to time the camera would focus on the dark balcony of St Peter’s Basilica as the crowds and the world, especially the Roman Catholic world of 1.2 billion, awaited their new spiritual leader.  Not being Catholic it probably did not hold the same degree of anticipation and reverence for me as for my Catholic brothers and sisters.

It was a momentous occasion.  As the processions began in the falling night rain of Rome the suspense began to build until its ultimate climax—with the new pope emerging to greet the world.

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Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is Pope Francis I.  He chose the name after Saint Francis of Assisi or St. Francis Xavier.  Being from the New World marks an historic turn for the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis I is 76 years of age.  He is the 266th Pontiff and the first Jesuit to hold the holy office.

The more moderate and liberal segments of the church held the hope that the new Holy See would have attitudes more to their inclinations and dreams as the church moves into the 21st Century.   However, Pope Francis I is described as “very conservative”.

But I find it of interest that he chose to be Francis I after Saint Francis of Assisi or Saint Francis Xavier or both. Neither Saint Francis was the typical priest.  They were radical in many ways.

Perhaps, the new pope is thinking of the express command that God gave Saint Francis of Assisi:

Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.

Or perhaps, of Saint Francis Xavier, the greatest missionary since the Apostle Paul, whose zeal for the people was the trademark of a man who devoted himself to those people.

The Roman Catholic Church is facing new challenges and an erosion of stature and respect.  Perhaps Pope Francis I will repair the house of God and bring salvation to the people, but I suspect it is going to take some radical measures to bring the church back to its former status as the mother church from which all Christendom sprang and the rock on which the simple Nazarene Teacher founded it two millennia ago.

G. D. Williams       © 2013

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Saint Francis of Assisi


Saint Francis Xavier


Pope Francis I



The Pope’s Twitter account, whose profile was changed to read ‘Sede Vacante’ when Benedict stepped down, has now been switched back to ‘Pontifex’.

 Minutes after his address, a message was sent from the account, saying: “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM” – which roughly translates as “We have Pope Francis.”


During his first few weeks as pope, Francis will live in a temporary apartment away from the official papal residence. Vatican spokesman Lombardi previously showed reporters a video of the new pope’s short-term home, which has a study, a sitting area and a carving of Jesus Christ’s face on the headboard of the bed. Francis will stay there while the official papal apartment is renovated. The apartment was sealed after Benedict’s resignation and church rules say it can’t be reopened for any reason until there is a new pope.


Society of Jesus

Cardinal Bergoglio has had a growing reputation as a very spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership serving in a region with the largest number of the world’s Catholics.

 Since 1998, he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style is low-key and close to the people.

 He rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as “Father Jorge.”

 He also has created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world’s bishops.

The cardinal has also written books on spirituality and meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages.


The Society of Jesus is a religious order founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola. Designated by him “The Company of Jesus” to indicate its true leader and its soldier spirit, the title was Latinized into “Societas Jesu” in the Bull of Paul III approving its formation and the first formula of its Institute (“Regimini militantis ecclesia”, 27 Sept., 1540). The term “Jesuit” (of fifteenth-century origin, meaning one who used too frequently or appropriated the name of Jesus), was first applied to the society in reproach (1544-52), and was never employed by its founder, though members and friends of the society in time accepted the name in its good sense. The Society ranks among religious institutes as a mendicant order of clerks regular, that is, a body of priests organized for apostolic work, following a religious rule, and relying on alms for their support [Bulls of Pius V, “Dum indefessae”, 7 July, 1571; Gregory XIII“Ascendente Domino”, 25 May, 1585].