As differing as the world’s geography, politics, policies and populations may be, there are some things that create a global connection. Faith. This universal connection was recently on display at a level rarely seen – but clearly it is felt.

Throughout the month of March, the eyes, and in many cases, spirits, of the world have been intensely focused on a tiny location on the planet, a place so small that its population does not even reach one thousand inhabitants. Yet, while not actually living in this city, 1.2 billion people worldwide, just over 17% of the world’s population, call this place their spiritual ‘home’. Vatican City.

It all began on the 11th of February, when Pope Benedict XVI announced, to the shock of many within the cardinal community, Catholic Church and across the globe, his resignation for personal, age and health related reasons. The last day of the month would be his last day as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church.

It was a move that shook the faith, raising the voices of millions to question not just variations on a ‘why did he really‘ theme, but for devotees, an emotional ‘how could he?‘  God only knows.

With his unprecedented departure – the first papal resignation in close to 600 years – Pope Benedict XVI took with him a sense of the end of not just a papal era, but the end of an era of the Catholic Church per se. The College of Cardinals saw the signs, embracing the calling to rise to the challenge, recognising that for the Church to move forward, it was critical to recognise how the world around them – faith and followers – had moved on.

And, importantly, the world’s Catholic population was watching to see if, when, how, the Church would respond to the growing crisis of confidence and conviction, challenging its relevancy and credibility.

But it was not just Catholics keeping vigil. Across the globe, billions were watching the chimney of the Sistine Chapel for Papal conclave voting. Remarkably, in just two days a decision was made.

The sign of change came, not just in the colour of the smoke, but in the speed of the decision making process,

and the choice of a Pope from South America,

and the new Pope’s choice of name – Francis, a humble, compassionate, there-to-serve-the-people spiritual leader,

and the choice of the new Pope’s personal lifestyle as the leader of the Church – from rings to shoes, from vehicles to new home.

Significant decisions of both symbol and substance, critical to the minds and hearts of Catholics worldwide.

But why did, the world, Catholics and non-followers alike, watch the selection process so closely? Why did it matter to billions beyond the official population of followers?

Why did the choice of the next Pope touch so many, so deeply?

Why? Because of a bond that connects billions, regardless of location, language, lifestyles: believing in believing

The Catholic Church getting it right, banishing the ghosts and guilt of the past, matters to more than can be imagined. It is not about the institution, the structure, the face. It is about the need to believe in something better that all that burdens, something that still inspires right when there are so many examples of wrong, something that keeps us waiting for the dawn through the long hours of the dark. It is about keeping the faith.

As said by Ben Wedeman of CNN while covering the election of the new Pope, “Rome was not built in a day, and the Vatican will not be rebuilt in a week.

Will Pope Francis be able to lift the Vatican, the Catholic Church and the minds of millions, to a higher place?




Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2013