The much-awaited white smoke from the Sistine Chapel announcing a new pope is an ancient tradition, but it arrived at a very modern time, just ahead of Europe’s main evening news broadcasts, as if the media-savvy Cardinals had planned it all along.
It ended days of speculation as to who would be the new leader of the Roman Catholic church, and interminable media pontificating and theorising from all and sundry as to how he would effect the church, and how his appointment would be received.
When his identity was finally revealed, it brought a sharp intake of breath from all assembled to witness the event. Pope Francis had been on no-one’s favourites list; a Latin American, and a Jesuit to boot, both unprecedented. “I come from the other end of the earth” he said. He might as well have come from Mars.
“Before blessing you, I want you to pray to God to bless me… Let us pray in silence… this prayer of yours upon me,” were his first words to the waiting world.
“Good night, and sleep well” he said at the end of his inaugural address. Most of the world’s Catholics did, delighted at the choice.