It's at times like these that I know just how Italian I am. I was with a friend on Wednesday evening when she got a text saying we had an Argentinian pope. My first thought? Oh good, he's probably of Italian stock!
(In fact, he's the son of immigrants. His father was born and brought up in Torino, and his family roots lie in a tiny hamlet in the province of Asti - where, no doubt, a lot of spumante corks have been popped in his honour. All of which, of course, makes him as Piemontese as me!)
I logged straight onto Facebook and then Twitter, and met an explosion of Habemus Papams and excited announcements of his name, Jesuit-ness and first appearance on the balcony. The joyous exhilaration was palpable, almost leaping out of the screen at me! I managed to send a few messages to Jesuit and Argentinian friends, but had to wait till I got home before I could watch it all for myself, and feel truly part of the excitement, whilst marvelling at the pope's stillness in the midst of all the hubbub. A time for being grateful for 24-hour news programmes, and for Youtube, where I found his full balcony appearance and speech without translation. His words were indeed simple, heartfelt and unpretentious, as befits a man now called Francis.
Francis of Assisi may have been small and scrawny, but he left huge sandals to fill. He was humble, gentle and filled with deep inner joy, a man who rejected ostentation and power whilst welcoming outcasts, a deeply spiritual man who burned with love for God and all of creation. And my prayer - and the prayers of millions of others around the world - is that our new Francis can be all that and more, for the good of the world and the Church.