“HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM,” is the text that the Vatican website greets visitors with this evening. This has been an eventful several weeks indeed, with a whole new slew of “news” for the church unveiled today: First Pope from the Americas, First Jesuit Pope, First Pope “Francis.” I am personally moved by the decision to set the tone of the next papacy after the example of the poverello, the little poor man from Assisi — St. Francis. It has long been my dream that a pope would symbolically select the name of the most popular saint in all of Christian history (after Mary, of course). To see this in my own lifetime is quite startling in a positive way. As Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, wrote on his public Facebook page: “We have a Jesuit pope with a Franciscan name. What a beautiful combination!”
For the record, Pope Francis has, in fact, taken his name after St. Francis of Assisi. According to the CBC, here is the confirmation from a Vatican spokesperson:
Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian and Vatican spokesperson, told CBC News that [Pope] Francis is known for “his holiness and simplicity of life, his pastoral skills — the warmest person you would ever want to meet.”
Speculating on why Bergoglio had chosen the name Francis, Rosica said, “Francis of Assisi is a saint that transcends the Catholic Church and is loved by all people, a saint who reached out for simplicity … poverty and care for the poor.”
There is so much to be said here and, I can assure you, there is more to follow. Stay tuned!
For now, let us celebrate this wonderful occasion with prayers for the future of leadership of the new Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, and for the whole church!
UPDATE: Vatican Radio story about Francis of Assisi also mentions a quote from Thomas Merton: “Perhaps Thomas Merton comes closest to the truth when he says: ” merely to know Saint Francis is to understand the Gospel in all its fullnes.”
UPDATE: CNN has run a story confirming the veracity of Pope Francis’s decision to take his name after Francis of Assisi.