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A new leader

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pope Francis will be installed in his new position in a mass at the Vatican today, and he’s only the third pope many of us have been alive to see.
This is a different world than the one Benedict XVI stepped out to greet in 2005 – photos from St. Peter’s Square show a crowd dotted with lights from smart phones and iPads instead of flickering candles. I found out about the white smoke sighted above the Sistine Chapel when my mother’s Pope Alarm app went off on her phone, and we flipped through TV channels to watch the developing action. The @Pontifex twitter account has already posted on behalf of Francis, reaching his 2,000,000-plus followers.

True, my 13-year-old self just wasn’t paying as much attention when Benedict XVI was elected, but this is a story the entire world has tuned in to hear. It was 741 A.D. when we last had a non-European pope. We have never had a Holy Father from South America and of all 266 popes, none has ever taken the name of Francis.

It makes sense that that people everywhere are wondering who this man is, why the cardinals chose him and what his papacy has in store for the world. Not just for Catholics, but for the world at large – the incredible amount of media coverage of the entire papal-turnover process shows just what a global affair this is. This is the first time I’ve looked at an event like this from the perspective of a journalist, and it’s really one of the most exciting things I’ve ever witnessed because this a brand new story.

I think John Paul II and Benedict XVI were fantastic leaders, and I’m glad I was alive to witness the work they did. They, like every other pope I’ve heard of, have the Roman numerals tacked on to their names, giving a nod to the lineage and history of the papacy all the way back to St. Peter. But our new leader is simply Francis.

He’s every bit the successor of St. Peter; he is firmly embedded in the thousands of years of tradition that help make our Church strong, and whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven, just like Matthew 16:19 says. But he doesn’t have a Roman numeral. He holds the ancient office of pope, but he’s unprecedented, a leader like we’ve never seen.

I’m excited to be Catholic at this moment in history, but I’m also excited to be a journalist. Francis’ story is brand new, and the stories I’ve written about him for The Observer have put me in touch with people across the world who are so exuberant to watch the scene unfold. I’m just thankful to have the chance to be among those working to share his story.

Contact Ann Marie Jakubowski at [email protected]

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.