As most of you probably know already, the newly-elected Pope Francis represents a lot of firsts: First Jesuit to become pope. First Latin American (or from the ‘New World’). First pope to take the name Francis.
I’m Italian I take a special interest in his election. He’s the new archbishop of Rome and – due to a long history of mingling between the Italian state and the Catholic Church, due to culture and religion – Italians tend to follow Papal elections with a particular, even if unwanted, attention.
I was messaging my mom on Skype the night the whole thing happened - live webcam on St. Peter’s Square and everything - and I have to say a sort of emotional shiver went through my body as she texted “Biancaaaaaaaaaa” (white) to me as puffs of white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.
I don’t know exactly why but it was an emotional moment. When they announced that the new Pope had picked the name Francis, in honour of St. Francis of Assisi, we all interpreted it as a sign of hope – a sign of humility, a vow of poverty and spirituality.
Also, many of us saw it as a move in a new direction, perhaps a signal that the Church – unlike the Italian state – is willing to change, maybe become more tolerant, embracing the massive changes that have shaken our society in the last 50 years. And perhaps, a sign of recognition that a clean-up is needed in order for this millennia-old institution to survive and retain its credibility.