ROME — The newly elected Pope Francis joked with cardinals over dinner, telling them he hopes God forgives them for having chosen him.
“When the secretary of state toasted to him, he toasted back to us and said, ‘I hope God forgives you,’” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York recalled at the Pontifical North American College.
“He has already won our hearts, and we had a very fraternal meal at the Domus Santa Marta, where we have been staying,” said the cardinal during a 11pm March 13 press conference.
“Pope Francis also told us … ‘I’m going to sleep well, and something tells me you will, too.’ And we will, knowing that the Church is in good hands,” said the New York cardinal, who described the conclave’s decision as bringing a “sense of release and of serenity.”
The Argentinian Pope, former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, used only public transportation, unlike many cardinals, to move around the city of Buenos Aires, where he was living until now.
Cardinal Dolan told how Pope Francis used the last of the cardinals’ minibuses to return to the St. Martha house, instead of using the papal car with the license plate “Stato Vaticano 1.”
And last night he didn’t go up on the platform to sit on the papal chair, but instead stayed down and greeted each cardinal.
“It’s clear he already takes very seriously his role as the Bishop of Rome, since Pope Francis said he would venerate Our Lady, Help of the Roman People, today,” said Cardinal Dolan.
“It was a very beautiful, inspirational and moving evening, and it’s something I’ll never forget,” he added.
After Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re announced the Pope’s name to the cardinals last night, Pope Francis accepted. The Jesuit Pope told the cardinals he chose the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, not in honor of the Jesuit St. Francis Xavier.
Cardinal Battista Re then read the Bible passage where Jesus chooses St. Peter and says, “To you I give the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you untie on earth will be untied in heaven.”
The cardinals sang the Te Deum, and the new Pope spent a few minutes in adoration, a new tradition that has begun with him.
Cardinal Dolan told journalists that elderly cardinals had said to him before the conclave, “Once you get in there, you will feel the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit, and you’ll feel God’s grace very much at work.”
“Not that there was thunder, but you feel a very beautiful sense of resignation and direction as you see things unfolding,” said the cardinal.
He noted, “Although you could see God’s hands at work, that didn’t absolve us from our responsibility.”
Cardinal Dolan also described seeing the relationship with a fellow cardinal suddenly change because of his new identity at “an astounding moment.”
“All of a sudden, his clothes are different; his name is different; and our relationship with him is different.”
Cardinal Dolan said that the morning of the Pope’s election he was hugging the Argentinian cardinal.
He said, “As sincere, as simple and as humble as he so radiantly is, his identity is new, and that I found extraordinarily moving.”