Devin Scillian: The Pope of the Poor

Author: Devin Scillian, Local 4 Anchor, @DevinScillian, devins@wdiv.com
Published On: Mar 14 2013 06:41:41 AM EDT
Devin Vatican at night
ROME -

I hate to quote anything from "Jerry McGuire," but I sense that my developing theme on what occurred last night in St. Peter's Square is "You had me at hello."

Those of us in the media rooms here in Rome have been doing a little head-scratching, trying to figure out how Cardinal Bergolio wasn't THE leading candidate going into the conclave, much less on the short list.

After all, he reportedly had the second most votes the last time around in the conclave that chose Pope Benedict.  

(To be honest, I don't remember anyone pointing that out before last night.)  But such is the humble yet rich profile of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  

The headline today in one of the Italian papers is "Papa dei Poveri" -- the Pope of the Poor.  

His simple and down-to-earth approach to his ministerial life is the stuff of legend among many of the priests here; he does his own cooking, answers his own door, and takes the bus.

Pope signs in Vatican

But to the many who filled St. Peter's, he was a relative unknown, and the announcement that he'd been chosen came in Latin which made for a lag effect for the crowds who understood a bit more slowly than those hearing the translation on television at home.  But the word "Francesco" sent an ooh and ahh through the square, and his choice to honor one of the most beloved saints of the Catholic pantheon.

St. Francis of Assisi, was a piece of brilliance (whether he intended it as marketing or not).  And then look at his immediate choices upon being introduced.  

He chose a simple white cassock rather than a red papal cape and stole.  He chose to wear his own simple cross rather than one encrusted with jewels.

(Imagine the array of choices from the Vatican collection; Harry Winston could not compete.) And then in his opening remarks, his very introduction to most of the Catholic world, rather than bestowing a top-down blessing to those below him, he implored the crowd, "I want you to bless me."

Now, despite the warm glow of last night, and the joy and exuberance which filled the square (and, you'd have to believe, the hearts of those assembled) not all is suddenly well with the Roman Catholic Church.

The wounds of the pedophilia scandals remain stubbornly unhealed.

The Vatican bank is swamped with suspicions of ties to gangsters and money laundering.

If the reports of its existence are believed, there is a thick document detailing a tawdry and frightening array of blackmail, prostitution, and skullduggery.  And the Vatican continues to struggle with shortages of those called to serve the church and those called to worship in its philosophical confines.

It will take a while to learn whether the conclave found a sheriff to clean up that nasty part of town.

But Pope Francis may have something more important on his side already --- believers.

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