David Crabtree on Assignment

Pope Francis quickly shows dynamic qualities

Posted March 14, 2013

People often ask me, "What's the best thing about your job?" The answer is always the same, "I'm reminded every day how little I know. It's so freeing to realize there's so much more in life to learn."

Never has that been more apparent than this week. Wow. were we wrong.

From the moment Pope Benedict XVI announced he would retire, the speculation began. It felt like the day after this past presidential election, "Who's going to run in 2016?"

While it FELT a little like that, reality was totally different.

Who would emerge as potentials? Who might be a front-runner? Could an American be at the helm of this massive ship for the first time in history? Would the apostolic successor to St. Peter have an English, Spanish, Italian or Asian accent?

The 115 voting cardinals would tell the tale and decide the future of the Roman Catholic Church.

"Well, David," priests and others would remark, "we have to have a dynamic leader. One who is media savvy and decisive. One who can explain where we go from here. One who will inspire!"

So we waited. Black smoke. We slept. The next morning, again, black.

After 7 p.m. local time Wednesday night, the chimney watched 'round the world belched what appeared to at first be another round of dark fog. Then, we realized there was nothing about this to pollute the air over the Vatican. White smoke refusing to vaporize as it rushed out. Then, the 10-ton bell over the Basilica of St. Peter's began pealing.

I was in the middle of close to 200,000 screaming people. People jumping, hugging, singing, crying, praying. The world waited. After an hour of anticipation, there he was.

We looked at the giant monitors. I heard people say, "Who is that?" "It's Francis!" another shouted back. "I KNOW that, but who IS that?"

He looked startled as he stepped out. – almost shell-shocked. Maybe he was. The collective weight of 1.2 billion Catholics is now on his 76-year-old shoulders.

A day later, we know. He's a soft-spoken advocate for the world's poor. Humble, yet for years cardinal in Buenos Aires – an archdiocese that encompasses almost 500 million Catholics.

Not charismatic. Really? Did you see him smile today? Not media savvy? Excuse me? He has his driver stop by the hotel where he was staying before the conclave so he could pick up his bags and pay his bill himself. Not a dynamic leader? You must not have been watching Wednesday night. Did you hear him ask for the prayers of you and me? Did you see the response?

Maybe it's not so much we got it wrong. Perhaps we could use a tiny adjustment of our lens on life to see the fact we got it right.


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About this Blog:

WRAL anchor David Crabtree reports from around the world.