"Now, I would like to give you a blessing, but first I want to ask you for a favour. Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord so that he blesses me. This is the prayer of the people who are asking for the blessing of their bishop."
On the surface, Pope Francis bears many similarities to his predecessor. My dreams for an African Pope having been dashed, the Cardinals it seems stuck to the traditional model, an elderly white man. But that only accounts for physical similarity. Beneath the surface however, the newly elected Pope Francis couldn't be more different from the Pope Emeritus.
This was apparent from his first appearance as Pontiff. As seen in the quote above, while traditionally most new Popes bless the Church before retiring, Pope Francis asked instead for the people to bless him. This, combined with his apparently going to his hotel and paying his bill personally yesterday rather than have someone from the Vatican staff do it, suggests he is going to bring a measure of new blood to the Holy City.
This of course is to be expected. As Cardinal Bergoglio he had never had a Church job outside of his native Argentina. Unlike Pope Benedict who was very much a Vatican insider, and a career theologian, Francis' entire career has been spent in parish ministry, first as priest, than as Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal.
This is what the Catholic Church needs. Rocked by a decade of scandal and accusations of being out of touch with the needs of everyday people - a bad thing for the world's largest church - the last thing they needed to do was pick someone similar to Pope Benedict. While I'm sure that whoever came second on the ballot would have made an excellent Pope, the choice of Pope Francis suggests that the Catholic Church realises that it needs to move forward.
The church has the power to do immense good, to influence policy, to change public opinion and to raise money for good causes. For every accusation of corruption within the Catholic Church, there are thousands of untold stories, of everyday Catholics doing good work, through charities and such like. This is something that Pope Francis - a Jesuit who chose his name in honour of Francis of Assisi patron saint of the poor - understands. A man who took the bus to work when Archbishop of Buenos Aries will not be one who allows the Catholic Church to continue along its current path
On the surface and theologically Pope Francis may seem similar to Pope Benedict, but one can only hope that in the long run it will turn out that - as his actions in the first few days of his reign have suggested - he will mark the start of a new chapter in the history of the church. The new boss being in fact quite different from the old boss is something I believe the Catholic Church desperately needsSuggest a correction