The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope this evening was a surprise. But perhaps, with hindsight, it shouldn’t have been. According to unofficial accounts he came second in the conclave balloting to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2005. But somehow he kept out of the media spotlight in the run-up to this conclave, leading many to strike him off the lists of papabili hastily pulled out of journalists’ drawers when Pope Benedict dramatically abdicated last month.
But the College of Cardinals had not forgotten him. And they elected him tonight on the fifth vote, an indication that he had received significant support from the very first ballot. The cardinals clearly believe that he is the man to lead God’s Church at this extraordinary moment in Catholic history.
Pope Francis’s first address this evening showed his extraordinary humility. He asked, astonishingly, for the blessing of the crowd in St Peter’s Square, before he gave his own blessing. His name calls to mind the many great men called Francis in Church history, but above all St Francis of Assisi, who heard a call from God to “rebuild my Church”. Pope Francis must consider this his summons, too. The Church has been profoundly damaged by abuse scandals, allegations of corruption within the Roman Curia and the loss of faith among so many Catholics.
Let’s pray for our new Holy Father, that he will inspire all Catholics to join him in the urgent task of rebuilding the Church, so that the light of Christ within it will shine out ever more clearly into the world.