'Hello? This is Pope Francis'
MANILA, Philippines – He trembled. It was a most unforgettable call.
The porter at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome, a man named Andrea, was used to speaking to aides or secretaries who coordinate calls for VIPs. Nothing prepared him for that phone call at around 10:45 am on Friday, March 15 (Rome time).
“This is Pope Francis,” the man on the other line said.
In a video posted on the Jesuit order's official website, Andrea recounted in Italian: “I couldn't believe it. And I asked, 'Who are you looking for?' And he told me, 'I would like to speak to the Father General.'”
By “Father General,” the Pope was referring to the Spanish-born Fr Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of over 19,000 Jesuits worldwide.
Nicolas was, in a way, a former boss of Francis, the first Jesuit pope in history. (Read: Why a Jesuit Pope is a surprise.)
“I believe he understood that I was scared,” Andrea said.
The low-key Francis – now going by the titles Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff – tried to put the porter at ease.
“He asked my name and I said, 'My name is Andrea.' Then he asked me, 'How are you doing this morning?' I said I'm doing well but I'm confused,” the porter recalled. (Watch Andrea's video interview below.)
Throughout their conversation, Francis was “so calm,” Andrea said. “And he told me, 'Be calm. There's no problem.' And he patiently waited for me to cool down.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former archbishop of Buenos Aires, has stunned the world with little acts of humility since cardinals elected him pontiff on Thursday, March 14 (Philippine time).
In his first homily as Pope on Friday, March 15 (Philippine time), for instance, Francis did the unexpected. He finished preaching in 7 minutes, without a script. (Read: Pope shows simplicity in unscripted homily.)
And unlike his predecessor, Benedict XVI, he delivered his homily from a lectern and not from the seat reserved for the pontiff. He spoke in simple Italian, not Latin.
Coming from the conclave that elected him, Francis also shunned the "Vatican One," a special chauffeur-driven limousine reserved for him. Instead, “he preferred to take the minibus with the other cardinals," the Vatican said.
Francis also returned to his lodging house, packed his bags, and paid the bill for his room “so as to set a good example,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.
His first speech, in itself, demonstrated his humility.
“And now I would like to give the blessing, but first I want to ask you a favor,” said Francis, named after a 12th-century saint known for a life of poverty.
He said: “Before the Bishop blesses the people, I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me – the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer – your prayer for me – in silence.” (Watch Rappler's video report below.)
In Buenos Aires, the former archbishop was known to promote the rights of the poor. (Read: Pope Francis known as champion of poor.)
For Sergio Rubin, religious writer for the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin, Francis is "conservative at the level of doctrine, and progressive on social issues." Rubin compares the pope to the late John Paul II.
The 76-year-old pope came from a working-class family. While he was already top-ranking prelate, then Cardinal Bergoglio still rode city buses, prepared his own meals, and made himself accessible to the public. (Read: Pope rides the bus, makes own meals.)
Pope Francis leads a Church that faces calls for transparency, simplicity, and greater attention to developing countries. – Rappler.com