Shortly after his election on Wednesday night, Pope Francis shunned the papal limousine and rode on the last shuttle bus with other cardinals to go back to a residence inside the Vatican for a meal.
That showed his humble side, according to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who gave an insider’s look into the hours immediately after Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected.
Dolan said most of the cardinals had taken buses back to their residence in the Vatican and had lined up to greet the new pope as he arrived for their last meal as a group. They were expecting him to arrive in the limousine that they had seen waiting for him at the base of the Apostolic Palace.
“And as the last bus pulls up, guess who gets off? It’s Pope Francis. I guess he told the driver ‘That’s OK, I’ll just go with the boys,’” Dolan told reporters at the American seminary in Rome, the North American College.
Inside the residence, during the dinner, Dolan said the new pope showed his humorous side.“We toasted him and when he toasted us he said: 'May God forgive you,' which brought the house down,” he said. He made them laugh again when he told the cardinals, who held seven days of pre-conclave meetings and two days in the conclave: “I am going to sleep well tonight and something tells me you are too.”
The new pope told the cardinals that on Thursday he would visit Pope Emeritus Benedict at the papal summer retreat south of Rome, visit a Rome basilica and, joking again, Francis said: “I also have to stop by the residence to pick up my luggage and pay the bill.”
Dolan described the emotion inside the Sistine Chapel as Bergoglio reached 77 votes, the two-thirds majority needed to elect him.
“We broke into applause but then we had to wait until the rest of the votes were counted and applauded again at the end and still again when he said he accepted the election,” Dolan said.
Minutes after his election, the new pope went into the Sistine Chapel's sacristy to change into the white papal vestments.
The sacristy is known as the “room of tears,” because it is there where a new pope first feels the weight of the papacy.
When he came out, a throne-like chair had been set on a platform but Francis preferred to greet the cardinals from a chair at their own level, Dolan said.
The new pope told the 114 cardinals who elected him that he had chosen the name Francis in honour of St. Francis of Assisi, who is known in Catholicism as “the little poor one” because he renounced earthly goods. There had been some speculation that since Bergoglio is a member of the Jesuit religious order, he may have chosen the name in honour of St. Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits.
“He quickly clarified that,” Dolan said. He said the election of Francis will be "a booster shot to the Church in the Americas, a real blessing."
“There is a sense of relief in all of us because we now have a good new shepherd,” Dolan said.