Fr. Francis Vu Tran is a member of the U.S. Province currently studying biblical theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The following is his reflection on learning about the selection of the new Pope:
The conclave’s black smoke on Wednesday morning signaled that there was no Pope yet. That afternoon, I was sitting at my desk trying to work on the third chapter of my thesis. I had a feeling that tonight we would have a new pope. However, I couldn’t get away because it was raining very hard outside and I was trying to finish my thesis paper.
While working on my thesis, I had the Vatican site open on my computer because I want to be part of the conclave, part of such an important piece of history. Around 7:00 p.m. I heard the screaming and yelling then saw white smoke appear on my computer screen. I left everything and ran out, “We have a pope!”
As I shouted to my brother priests in the hallway I ran toward the Vatican. I ran as fast as I could because I wanted to witness this moment, a moment of great joy. I got to the Vatican after 15 minutes of running. When I got there, the crowd had filled St. Peter’s Square. Every direction was blocked. No one was allowed to get into the square because it had been filled with people. I had never seen so many people in my life.
Having been in Italy for three years, I know how to get through a line even when there is no possible way to do so. I was determined to see the new Papa. I climbed through the fence and got through an ocean of people to get near the top.
All of us waited until about 8:00 p.m. when the deacon cardinal came out and proclaimed “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus Papam; Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum [Jorge] Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem [Bergoglio], Qui sibi nomen imposuit [Franciscum].
When the deacon cardinal called the name “Jorge” he pronounced it with an Italian accent that made it sound like “George.” All of us standing there began to ask ourselves, “Who is ‘George?’” Within the next five minutes, someone shouted out “A cardinal from Argentina.”
Regardless of the confusion, I was very happy to hear that he took the name “Franciscum” because I am also named “Francis.” When I heard the name, I shouted out, “Hey, It’s my name! Francesco!”
And then our beloved Pope Francis stepped out and waved at us. How exciting it was to be here, to witness a new birth of our Church and to stand in solidarity with others in the world. The feeling of joy and excitement filled with praise and laughter when Pope Francis said, “Buona Sera – Good Evening.” What a informal, and down-to-earth Pope. I told the person next to me, “I like him already.
We need a Pope who is close to us and easy to reach. We need a Pope who can journey with us. He told us that the Cardinals’ job was to elect a bishop for Rome. Then he said that they went to the end of the earth to find him and asked him to be the bishop of Rome.
I was so moved when he asked us to be silent and pray for him because we are on a journey together. It was the beginning of the relationship between the bishop and his people. As he bowed low to receive the blessing, the noise disappeared. At that moment, I felt so in touch with the Pope. The goose bumps ran through my body as I closed my eyes to pray for Pope Francis.
After a few seconds, the Pope gave us his first blessing. He left the stage, but the effect of his presence was still with us. We stood in awe because we just witnessed a moment of Grace, a moment of being in touch with God.