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Does the office of the Italian bishops’ conference have a television? Reuters reports (Mar. 14) that when white smoke from the Sistine Chapel announced a new pope, the Italian bishops apparently were convinced that one of their own had been chosen. The secretary general of the Italian conference, Bishop Mariano Crociata, expressed “joy and thanks” to God for the election of Angelo Cardinal Scola of Milan in a statement sent to reporters at 8:23 PM, Rome time. But the new pope had already been named as Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires who, about ten minutes earlier, had made his first appearance before the crowds in St. Peter’s Square. At 9:08 PM the Italian bishops’ conference sent another statement thanking God for the election of the pope, but this time they got the name right. Before the conclave, many Italian newspapers openly promoted Scola as the obvious candidate for the next pope. Perhaps some bishops remained under their sway despite live, global media coverage.
Pope Francis’s informal style has caught many by surprise, notably a Vatican receptionist, whom he phoned directly. The new Pope was trying to contact Adolfo Nicolas, the superior general of the Jesuit order, but when the baffled receptionist at the Jesuit residence — identified only as Andreas — received Francis’s call, he thought he was being pranked and snapped back, “Oh yes? And I’m Napoleon.” His Holiness eventually managed to convince him that he was who he claimed to be, and Andreas apologized when he realized what he had done. The Pope replied, “Do not worry, Andreas, just connect me with Father General, I would like to thank him for the charming letter.” One Vatican expert explained: “You can’t really blame the poor man. No other pope would have picked up a telephone to make his own calls. An official usually calls a secretary who places the call” (Daily Mail, Mar. 18).
On the day Francis was named Pope, south Florida residents looking toward the sky saw “a vision” in the form of an angel-shaped cloud (WPTV News, Mar. 13). Many took it as a message from God Himself, showing His pleasure at the election of the first Latin American Pope. One bystander wondered “if Pope Francis ordered that.” Another onlooker opined that “the Pope asked [us] to pray for him…. God answered.” Although many agreed that the cloud resembled an angel and was an inspiring sign from above, others saw in the cloud something less lovely. One woman thought the cloud resembled a sea monkey; another man saw “the dark lord — Lucifer” in it. The event was compared to a Rorschach inkblot test, which speaks more of one’s imagination than anything else.
Walter Slonopas, 52, resigned his maintenance job in Clarksville, Tennessee, after his W-2 tax form was stamped with the number 666 (The Tennessean, Feb. 6). This isn’t the first time the “number of the beast” has caused him trouble at work: During his first day on the job in 2011, Slonopas was assigned the number 666 for clocking in. The born-again Christian complained and was given a new number. A few months later, the company changed time-clock systems, and once again Slonopas got 666. So he quit. The company apologized and he returned to work. The recent incident with the W-2 baffled the company spokesman. “I am completely at a loss for words,” he said. Slonopas has asked his former employer to give him a new W-2 without the number, otherwise he can’t file his taxes. He’s resisting going back to work. “God is worth more than money,” he said. “If you accept that number, you sell your soul to the devil.”
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