Bringing hope and healing

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Bringing hope and healing


It was an unforgettable sight. On the evening of March 13, 2013, I was standing in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican City as one of the few Koreans who were waiting for the results of the Papal Conclave, in which a new pope would be elected.

As darkness fell, a bird flew to the top of the Sistine Chapel’s chimney. The screen on the square showed it was a white seagull. The people waiting for the chimney to smoke stirred. It must be an auspicious sign, they thought - the seagull is the symbolic bird of hope.

The seagull sat for about 15 minutes and as soon as it flew off, white smoke rose from the chimney. It signaled that a new pope had been elected. Black smoke had risen twice before, once the previous evening and another time that morning.

There were only 2,000 people in the square because it was raining, and most believed that the Conclave would haven taken two more days.

About 30 minutes later, the streets leading to Saint Peter’s Square filled with umbrellas, and the people of the Vatican and Rome gathered to celebrate and welcome the new pope. Another thirty minutes later, the new pope appeared on the balcony on the second floor of St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced “Habemus papam,” or “We have a pope,” and he appeared.

“Buona sera,” the new pope told the crowd, a simple yet sincere greeting to the people.

In an article I had written three days before the election, I didn’t even mention Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Based on local media and religious experts’ analyses, I wrote that Angelo Scola of Italy and Odilo Scherer of Brazil were most likely to be elected. The next morning, the new pope went to the hotel he had stayed in for the Conclave and checked out, settling the bill with his personal credit card. It was the beginning of the pope’s acts to “come low unto us.”

In an interview with Father Antonio Spadaro, the editor in chief of La Civilta Cattolica, one of the oldest Italian Catholic periodicals, Pope Francis said, “I see the church as a field hospital after a battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugar! You have to heal his wounds.”

Pope Francis is coming to a country full of seriously wounded people. The chief of the field hospital will bring us the hope of healing.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 14, Page 31

* The author is a deputy editor of the JoongAng Sunday.


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