“THE first pope born beneath the Southern Cross” is one of the history-making firsts Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane has observed with Pope Francis’ election.
The Archbishop also said the new pope’s style “may fit well with the taste of Australians … something down-to-earth and no-nonsense”.
“He is also the first Latin American pope and the significance of that is hard to overstate,” he said.
“He is also the first Jesuit pope.
“The relations between the Jesuits and the popes have at times been, to put it mildly, complex.”
Archbishop Coleridge said although he had never met Pope Francis, he had come to know quite a lot about him before his election.
“This was mainly because he was thought to be the runner-up in the 2005 conclave,” the Archbishop said.
“I hadn’t known much about him till then, but the rumour of his strong showing in that conclave stirred my curiosity.”
Archbishop Coleridge said he had been impressed by Pope Francis’ manner since his election.
“On his way back from St Mary Major to the Vatican, he stopped off at the place where he’d been staying before the conclave and paid his bill,” he said.
“That matches the remarkable and refreshing style of his appearance and speech on the balcony of St Peter’s.”
Archbishop Coleridge said the new pope was also renowned for his passion for social justice.
“He has been renowned for his love of the poor and the great simplicity of his personal life,” he said.
“He lives in a little apartment, he does his own cooking and even takes public transport which not even the Archbishop of Brisbane does.”
Pope Francis seems to be able to cut through the many protocols that surround the pope, the Archbishop said.
“He’s even wearing black shoes,” he said.
“He also seems amazingly relaxed in the role.
“He was anything but overawed by the moment or setting when he appeared on the balcony.
“And in photos I’ve seen of him since, he seems calm, relaxed and smiling … even when preaching in the Sistine Chapel (without a written text) to the cardinals who elected him.
“Early signs are that he will be a different kind of pope … more relaxed, homely and simple.
“Whether this will continue as the story unfolds remains to be seen.
“But it has been a start we didn’t expect, with a style that hits the spot.”
In a statement released the day after the Pope’s election, Archbishop Coleridge said that, “to see the new Pope appear on the balcony of St Peter’s in the simple white soutane and to speak as simply to the people as he did evoked the memory of Pope John XXIII”.
“Then that he invited the crowd into a moment of silence to pray with him before he blessed them, again was very striking,” he said.
“So here is a Pope renowned for his simplicity of life.
We saw signs of that as he appeared on the balcony and we can only hope that that simplicity, the simplicity of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ himself, will typify the pontificate.
“As we rejoice in the election of Pope Francis, we also pray that his health will hold up so that he might fulfil the mission that has been entrusted to him not just by the cardinals but by the Lord Jesus himself.”