- Posted March 13, 2014 by
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HOLY SMOKE! THE POPE IS NOT HERE
- Verybecoming, CNN iReport producer
March 13, 2014, Vatican City State. It is a holiday here. It celebrated the first year anniversary of the ‘People’s Pope’ and ‘Person of the Year’. Pope Francis’ simple lifestyle and love for the poor who shepherds and brings out the church to the periphery, away from the Vatican centered curia, to the life of the people especially the poor had successfully brought about some changes, perhaps not on what his words said, but primarily some of his actions captured by cameras kissing children, a deformed man and the feet of prisoners—women and Muslims. These were only the beginning after riding a bus with other cardinals, paid his own hotel bills a day after his election, and his decision to live not in the papal palace but in an apartment inside the Vatican. No red shoes, nor limousines, nor precious things are visible in him. Without all these, perhaps, a simple and humble person will become a bit more visible.
Elected from the ‘ends of the world’, an Argentinian Jesuit Mario Cardinal Bergoglio began to introduce some fresh images of the church to the ‘ends of the world’, as the bishop of Rome who has chosen to call himself Pope Francis after one of the most revered saint and lover of nature, Saint Francis of Assisi.
Recalling my own experiences, while I waited for over four hours at St. Peter’s square to get a good spot and to witness such an historic event. The rain, hunger and exhaustion standing for hours are nothing compared to the excitements of thousands of people who came to St. Peter’s Square. An umbrella, a camera and a copy newspaper with all the pictures of cardinals were important things I had with me on that day besides the emotions of seeing the new pope for the first time.
All eyes: cameras, televisions and the eyes of the crowds were all glued on the chimney. Black or White? The color of the smoke tells it all. That evening, after 7 in the evening, it came out white. The crowd went wild, excited and at the same time curious.
After almost an hour, the white smoke disappeared and the bells were silent, the most awaited words were uttered: “Habemus Papam!” We have a Pope! Mario Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina became to be known as Pope Francis. Before giving his apostolic blessing, he prayed and asked the people “pray for me!”
Like many people, I faithfully followed Pope Francis by reading his homilies, encyclical and speeches. In fact I met him and kissed his papal ring four days after his election at St. Anne’s Church inside the Vatican administered by the Augustinian Friars.
On his first anniversary, Pope Francis went for a Lenten retreat away from the Vatican.
Looking at the papal palace, I found it ironic to think that there are two living popes, Benedict XVI and Francis yet the papal residence remains empty for a year now. I used to look at the window where the pope lived, across St. Monica’s College to see if the pope is still awake after 11p.m. I saw the lights in that room during the times of Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI but had never seen it since Pope Francis was elected. Well, he is somewhere else. Some speculated that he went out secretly to give food to the poor at night, other simply said, he is resting like many others to regain his strength for another day at Santa Martha’s residence.
Before going to bed, I took these night photographs. It is a completely reverse image. Last year, on this terrace, the media occupied it to cover the Conclave but now I am the only one around. No crowds, no television coverage and not even the pope around. But in the silence of this night, I am still expecting more excitements, surprises and new ways of looking at the church, spirituality and the joy of having surrounded by the mercy of God.
The pope asked for prayers. Therefore, I offered my prayers for him today, for the poor and those that God loved the most, sinners.