Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, today commented on the Pope’s first public appearance Wednesday evening, when Francis greeted the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
He noted a few significant gestures that characterized the simplicity and serenity of that encounter, beginning with the Pope’s request that the faithful pray for him and his choice of vestments. “The new Pope wore neither the red ‘mozzetta’ (the elbow-length cape worn by high-ranking prelates) nor a stole, and his pectoral cross was the same simple one that he has worn as bishop and Cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The choice of his name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, strongly recalls the saint’s evangelical spirituality and radical poverty,” Father Lombardi said.
The spokesman also clarified that his papal name is simply Francis, not Francis I, since he is the first pontiff to bear that name. If after him another pontiff chooses that name then he will be Francis I.
Another gesture made by the new Pope, Fr. Lombardi continued, was that Wednesday after his election in the Sistine Chapel, when his cardinal brothers paid him homage, instead of sitting on the papal throne, he stood as he received them. As well, instead of taking the papal car that had been prepared for him to return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, he took the same minibus he had arrived in along with the other cardinals.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York also mentioned this to reporters. They were expecting him to arrive in a limousine, which they saw parked in the Apostolic Palace. “And when the last bus stopped, guess who came out? Pope Francis. I imagine he said to the chauffeur: ‘no problem, I’ll go with the boys,'” explained Cardinal Dolan to journalists.
Pope Francis briefly addressed the cardinals at the festive supper, after thanking them, quipping, “May God forgive you [for what you have done].”
Cardinal Dolan again mentioned his humorous side, saying the Pontiff also said to the cardinals, “I’m going to sleep well tonight, and something tells me you will too.”
Cardinal Dolan described the emotion in the Sistine Chapel when Cardinal Bergoglio got the two-thirds majority necessary to be elected.
“We began to applaud, but had to stop until the rest of the votes were counted and then we clapped again at the end,” Cardinal Dolan said, “and again when he said that he accepted his election.”