Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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March 17, 2013

A Pope for my birthday — the best gift ever

Corsicana — At important world events, sometimes we find ourselves in the most unlikely of places.

At the announcement of the new Pope for the Roman Catholic Church, I was in such an unlikely place. Bernie's Bar was a local dive next to the marina in Port Aransas where I had been fishing with some friends. No longer was it an insignificant stop for lunch, but the extraordinary spot where I witnessed the election of the 266th successor to the Apostle Peter, Pope Francis.

On the television screen, we watched as the smoke billowed out of the chimney and as the big bells of St. Peter's Basilica swung majestically; the two signs that a new pope had indeed been elected. An hour would elapse before a Cardinal would make the announcement of the identity of the new Pope and so I waited expectantly with the world.

During this wait, I reflected upon the process of the papal election. Just the day before, the Cardinals assembled, celebrated Mass, prayed asking for the guidance of Jesus Christ and commenced the conclave to elect the new Pope. We witnessed the great Cardinal procession into the Sistine Chapel and their oaths of fidelity that they took before God, each other, and the world. The pronouncement was made “Extra Omnes” meaning “All out” and the great doors of the Sistine Chapel closed leaving the Cardinals inside alone to vote and to pray.

I knew that the Cardinals would vote once on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, they would vote twice in the morning and twice in the evening. They would continue this pattern each day until the election of a new pope. I knew that the Cardinals would stay at the Casa Santa Martha, a home that is used primarily as a guest home for visitors to the Vatican. I also knew that if there was not an election of a Pope, that twice a day the ballots would be burned and black smoke would emanate from the chimney affixed to the chapel. I knew that we all looked expectantly for the white smoke and the announcement of the new Pope, the Bishop of Rome. The moment had now come.

Annuntio vobis Gaudium Magnum! Habemus Papam! (I announce to you a great joy! We have a Pope!) The crowd at St. Peter's roared and time seemed to me to stand still. We all awaited the next words of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. They would announce the name of the new Pope.

As I waited to listen to the words of the cardinal, I thought about who this next Pope might be. I heard a commotion from some people behind me. Laughing about the pageantry of the announcement while imbibing in spirits, to them the election meant little. This reminded me why we so needed a Pope in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.

Then, I heard the words, “Cardinalem Bergoglio, qui sibi nomen imposuit Francesum.” (Cardinal Bergoglio, who takes the name of Francis.) Bergoglio, Bergoglio. I thought.  The named sounded familiar. Cardinal Bergoglio was the Archbishop of Buenas Aires, Argentina. Many considered him to be a major contender during the election of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. And now the Cardinals have elected him to be Pope Francis. Who is this man and why did he take Francis as his name? Read next week to find out.

     —————

Fr. Jason Cargo is priest at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Corsicana.

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