NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — One year ago Thursday, a little-known cardinal from Argentina named Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope and took the name Francis.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, Pope Francis became the first pope from Latin America. He was also the first named for the 13th-century friar St. Francis of Assisi, whose life’s work was to care for nature, the poor and most disadvantaged. Echoing the gentleness for which St. Francis is known, the pope said a little bit of tenderness can “open up a horizon of hope.”
In the time since, Pope Francis has shunned much of the pomp of his predecessors. He spent his one-year anniversary Thursday in prayer – staying in a sparsely-furnished room on a retreat with priests outside Rome.
In maintaining a humble and simple life, Pope Francis has practiced what he has preached in the year since he greeted the world with simple sincerity – saying, “brothers and sisters, good evening” in Italian.
There were a quarter million people in St. Peter’s Square that night, and CBS 2’s Aiello was one of them. The excitement over the new pope was matched by a curiosity over how he would approach the job.
At his installation mass six days later, Pope Francis gave a clue to the crowd.
“I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment,” he said on March 19 of last year.
And a year later, 85 percent of U.S. Catholics rated Pope Francis favorably.
“He makes me want to bring friends to church,” one woman said.
But statistics show church attendance rates have actually stayed flat over the last year.
“I think things may lag,” said the Rev. James Martin, editor-at-large of America Magazine. “I mean, he’s been pope for a year and I think, you know, people’s faith lives, if you’ve been away from the church for 30 or 40 years, it might take more than a year to come back.”
Still, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Martin said people simply like Pope Francis.
“I think one main reason is his simple lifestyle,” Martin said. “He moved out of the Grand Apostolic Palace and into a two-room suite.”
Martin said photos of the pope on the Internet carting his own bags and being driven around in an old car endear him to many.
“Social media has certainly played a role,” he said. “You have pictures of the pope hugging a little kid, touching a severely-disfigured man, and those images race around the globe. Really, they speak a lot about what the pope wants to do.”
After mass Thursday morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which has been shrouded in scaffolding during renovations, Timothy Cardinal Dolan had a reflection.
“This is a little icon, and a symbol of the church with a small ‘c’ that we’re trying to restore and rebuild,” Dolan said, referring to St. Patrick’s, “but Francis wants to do the Church with a capital ‘C’ and I think he’s doing it.”
Dolan said Pope Francis cannot change church doctrine on issues such as abortion and ordination of women. But the pope is setting a new tone with his simple lifestyle, reflecting an emphasis on a church that serves the poor and exists to heal and comfort.
Earlier Thursday, the pope sent out an anniversary message on Twitter with just four words:
Please pray for me.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 13, 2014
In so doing, he came full-circle from the moment a year ago when he greeted the crowd at St. Peter’s Square and bowed down asking for their blessing.
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