For the first time in Church history---after about 800 years---a pope chose the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. I hadn’t realized this was the first time ever. Well, it’s about time.
Many millions of Catholics around the world were joyous with the naming of a new pope -- a holy man from the Third World no less. Even in choosing his name, Pope Francis is emphasizing a devotion to the poor, and humility in his clothing and manners.
One of the first official acts of the newly installed Pope Francis was to reach out to the Jewish community of Rome, as his predecessor Pope Benedict had done, and he is being greeted warmly by many Jewish leaders worldwide. For most of the last 1,500 years, though, Catholic-Jewish relations have not been so warm. In fact, there was a time when the Catholic Church was rocked with a scandal: It was alleged that the Pope himself was Jewish.
Rome -- "May God forgive you." That's Cardinal Timothy Dolan's translation of a joke that Pope Francis told the College of Cardinals a day after being elected the 267th pontiff.
Habemus Papam! We have a pope! That was the word, or rather the words, from St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday, and it wasn't just a worldwide church that had awaited the news, but the world itself. And the news was good, as in the Good News. For suddenly the air in Rome and far beyond seemed filled with a hope that was almost palpable.