Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope Francis Meets The Media

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

Pope Francis met with media today and the pope from Argentina continues to delight the public.

The audience was at 11 a.m. so Don, Mar and I set off for the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican just after nine.  We arrived none too soon. The line was blocks long and it felt like security was letting people in one by one. We surmised that we’d stand in line for an hour and a half and then at the last minute security would rush everyone through. We were right.

Near us in line were a crew from WPIX in New York, Dennis Coday and Josh McElwee from National Catholic Reporter, and David Gibson, of Religion News Service. Dennis said NCR’s website has gotten a huge number of hits during this papal transition. At one time, 18,000 people were on it at one time. NCR staff were grateful the site didn’t crash. I noted that the U.S. bishops’ site,, has also done well and spoke of the video on Pope Francis that Catholic News Service videographer Robert Duncan put together. Everyone’s talking about it, even people at the Vatican secretariat of state.

The two-minute video has heartwarming footage from the pope’s meeting with the cardinals yesterday, including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. It shows Pope Francis whispering something into Cardinal George’s ear and both laughing heartily. This morning I asked Cardinal George what the pope said, but he’s not telling.

I’d estimate the audience hall had well more than 5,000 people. I sat next to Kathryn Lopez, editor-at-large for National Review Online, who was furiously typing into her Blackberry.

As is becoming his custom, Pope Francis, a Jesuit, strayed from his prepared remarks, this time with a story about choosing his name. When during the Conclave he received the number of ballots needed for election, the man next to him, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, whispered to him: “Don't forget the poor!”

“And those words came to me: the poor, the poor,” Pope Francis told the journalists.  Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi.  Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end.  Francis is also the man of peace.  That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi.  For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?  He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!”

Afterwards, cardinals joked his name should be “Clement XV,” to pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of JesusP in 1773.

“Oh how I would like a poor church and a church for the poor,” he added.

After the pope’s address, Vatican media staff and a small number of journalists chosen by lot greeted the pope personally. One reporter, who is blind, was led by a guide dog that the pope bent down to pet.
Afterwards Don, Mar and I stopped at the press office to get copies of the speech but they were not yet available. Papal ad libbing holds up their process.


Sister Mary Ann Walsh is media relations director for the USCCB.

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