- John Thavis
First thoughts about Pope Francis
The first Jesuit pope. The first Latin American pope. The first pope to choose the name Francis.
And already there are signs that he will find a new way of being pope. Asking for the people’s prayers for God’s blessing before delivering your own, for example, was a pretty eloquent act of humility.
Within minutes, the Vatican had announced that Pope Francis’ first major audience will be on Saturday, when he meets the more than 5,000 journalists covering his election.
I was part of the live ABC News panel this evening watching it all unfold, perched above St. Peter’s Square. Diane Sawyer anchored, with fellow commentators Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Terry Moran and Cokie Roberts.
When we heard the name “Bergoglio” in the “Habemus Papam” announcement, we all did a double-take. As I wrote here two days ago, I had heard Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s name increasingly mentioned by some well-informed people, so he was high on my short list. But his election on the second day of the conclave surprised me. It meant he was not a compromise candidate the cardinals turned to after voting stalled on front-runners, but the first choice of many going into the conclave.
His simple lifestyle as archbishop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is well-known — he doesn’t live in a mansion but in a simple apartment, he doesn’t have a driver but takes the bus, he even cooks his own meals.
As a communicator, he’s no superstar speech-giver, and we saw that in his low-key appearance on the balcony tonight. Look for him to communicate through gestures, prayers and decisions. Simplicity will be key. Some of his first decisions will be the most interesting: who he chooses as his top officials at the Vatican, and whether he moves toward some of the reforms called for by cardinals over the last few weeks.
He’ll also outline some of his plans, including travel plans, we assume. If he goes to Brazil for World Youth Day next July, don’t be surprised to see him add a stop in Argentina.