Webster University students abroad witness election of Pope Francis


While studying abroad in London, Webster University sophomore Zachary Selby went to Rome for spring break. He and his friends didn’t realize their trip would coincide with the election of the Roman Catholic Church’s new pope.

“I can’t even describe what it was like (to be there when the pope was elected),” Selby said.

Selby and his friends booked the trip a month in advance before they knew about the elections. On March 13, they waited at the crowded Vatican. Selby and his friends discussed which candidate they expected to be selected while they waited for the first sign of white smoke. Finally, they saw white smoke and discovered the College of Cardinals had chosen Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the new pope.

“It was raining the entire day,” Selby said. “Then, right as he was elected, the rain stopped. It was like an hour before he stepped out to greet everyone. The rest of the day we were there, it was gorgeous.”

When Pope Francis addressed the crowd in Rome, he spoke in Italian. Selby said he didn’t understand Pope Francis at the time, but looked at a translation later. Selby also said he recognized that everyone was praying for the new pope.

“In his speech, (Pope Francis) said,  ‘Please pray for me,’” Selby said. “That’s really touching.”

Selby said Pope Francis had the option to stand on a platform above where the other cardinals stood. But he stood at the same level instead.

Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s first Jesuit pope. He selected the name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, a saint of simplicity.

Pope Francis is also the first pope from Latin America, where 40 percent of the world’s Catholics reside, according to St. Louis Archdiocese spokeswoman Angie Shelton.

In a press conference at the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said Pope Francis is known for his simplicity and has been a champion of the poor. Carlson also said the new pope is a skilled administrator. Pope Francis became a bishop in 1992 and a cardinal in 2001.

“We find comfort in the gentleness of his Jesuit spirituality, which is uniquely blended with his devotion to St. Francis of Assisi,” Carlson said in an email. “His demonstrated humility, service and openness are surely a beacon of hope for all people.”

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