QUEBEC CITY—On that mild March evening in 2013, with tens of thousands jammed into St. Peter’s Square, all eyes looked anxiously toward the central balcony of the Basilica. Who would emerge?
And when Jorge Mario Bergoglio stepped outside, from behind the velvet curtains, a murmur swept across the crowd, building into a crescendo. Who is that? Pope Francis. Pope who? Pope Francis, who’d taken his papal name from Francis of Assisi, for the saint’s gentleness and humility, for the Franciscan order’s plainness.
The first Pope from the Americas, the first Jesuit to be elevated to Pontiff. An outlier, scarcely mentioned over the two days of the papal conclave as cardinals debated their choice, through five ballots, for successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who had shockingly resigned from the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. “Buona sera.”
From his initial public remarks as Vicar of Christ, Francis made clear that he wanted a church for the poor. And on his first morning as Pope, in what immediately assumed folklore status, Francis stopped by the modest Vatican City hotel where he’d been lodging — to pay his bill.