March 14, 2013
Jesus Said, "Do Not Be Afraid"
The crowd in St. Peter’s Square waiting for the new Pope.
Yes, I was there, standing on the terrace of Cardinal William Levada’s apartment facing St. Peter’s Square. I had been there for the last Angelus blessing of Benedict XVI and had been invited back by Monsignor Steve Lopes, the cardinal’s secretary. I was among about 15 guests, employees of the Curia, and staff of the apartment house. As many of you saw the scene was spectacular. Fellini, Zefferelli, and Puccini all in one!
We watched from 5:30 to 6 then came inside because of the rain. I had to leave for a live CNN interview at 7, just down the street. I talked to the producer (in the rain). We walked together to greet CNN anchor Becky Anderson. All of a sudden, there it was — white smoke on the huge television monitors. The crowd roared. Becky went live. “White smoke. There is a pope.” After two minutes, they broke from us to Anderson Cooper, John Allen, and Chris Cuomo broadcasting from the Castel Sant’Angelo.
I realized that I would no longer be needed. I spoke to Becky and the producer briefly. I began to walk up the street. Becky turned to the producer and asked her to confirm her plane reservations to leave Rome on Friday. She has to be in Mexico next week. Sic transit and all that!
I rejoined my friends on the terrace and waited, and waited, and waited. As you did. Why? Once the white smoke emerges (very forcefully this time, thank you), the new Pope leaves the Sistine Chapel to get dressed in white and then to receive the individual expressions of obedience from each cardinal elector. Usually he sits on a throne. Last night, he declined the throne and stood on the same level as the cardinals. Message?
|Monsignor Irwin with reporter Dan Mannarino of New York’s WPIX-TV.|
The new Pope and cardinals then walk in procession to the Pauline Chapel for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, then down the corridor to the loggia. Lights on. Windows open. The Pope appears. The rest is history.
Italians do not like open windows. They fear drafts of any sort from anywhere, anytime. Drafts! Wearing a scarf here is not a fashion statement, it is a survival technique. Always cover the throat. Be perennially careful of sore throats. Keep the windows of buses closed. Apartment windows closed. Office windows closed. All windows closed.
The windows of St. Peter’s — which are always closed — were opened. The shutters on the windows in the Apostolic Palace will reopen today when Pope Francis unseals the door to the papal apartment.
When he called the Second Vatican Council in 1959, Pope John XXIII said, “I want to open the windows wide for the Church to look out, and people can look in.” That statement shook both the Church and the world. Vatican II shook the world and the Church then and still, 50 years later.
How will Pope Francis direct the windows to open? Which direction? What issues are on his radar screen? How will he lead what is sometimes called “a restive flock?”
Every spring I can’t wait to open the windows of my office and apartment. Nothing like fresh air. All Popes breathe a breath of fresh air into the Church. I simply can’t wait to see and be a part of what will happen and when.
How many times did Jesus say, "Do not be afraid”? Pope John Paul II repeatedly said, “Do not be afraid.” If you are (and maybe all of us are on some level) let’s not be afraid. Pray hard and move forward with the new Pope. The first from Latin America. The first Jesuit Pope. The first to be called Francis. He will open the windows for fresh air one more time.