Author: Paul Vallely
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Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum
Playing truant from a conference in Rome I was in St Peter’s Square on 13 March 2013 when the white smoke appeared. To the excited crowd Cardinal Tauran announced habemus papam and named Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio as the new Pope. ‘Who? Who’s he?’ went round the crowd, but the new Pope was a mystery (not least because the sheer number of people present caused all the mobile networks to crash and we couldn’t google him). After the new Pope had appeared on the balcony, the first to take the name Francis, the crowds streamed away, still uncertain as to what to make of him.
Whilst it may be an exaggeration to say of Pope Francis that (as Churchill described the Kremlin) he is ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, it is no exaggeration to say he remains something of a mystery. He is capable of capturing the attention of the secular press while at the same time the attendance at the Wednesday Audiences is significantly declining. He is a ‘loyal son of the Church’ while at the same time flouting Church law on washing only men’s feet on Holy Thursday, a law which as Supreme Legislator he could easily change.