Chiswick's Cardinal Welcomes New Pope

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was in Rome to see Pope Francis elected


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Chiswick-based Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has spoken of his delight with the choice of Argentinian Cardinal Bergoglio as the new Pope and said the Catholic Church was “very blessed”.

Speaking from Rome, he predicted Pope Francis would "bring a new kind of style to the Catholic Church". And he revealed that they were made cardinals at the same time, at a consistory in 2001 and he had often met him.

White smoke from the Sistine chapel signals that a new Pope has been chosen

"As you see, he's called himself Francis - Francis the man for the poor. And he is a man who is experienced over many years, especially in his own country but also elsewhere, something of that love for poor people", he said on BBC TV.

"His own simplicity of life, I think, will be a great example to people," added the cardinal who has lived in W4 since his retirement .

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor described the new Pope as being "a friendly man, very easy, a very good listener" who had already dispensed with the official papal limousine in favour of being driven in an ordinary car.

"There are great expectations for Pope Francis, and we mustn’t overdo it. What we can say, I think, is that he’s a gentle, humble man who’ll bring a sense of simplicity to the office. I do think he’ll be competent at governance", he told the Evening Standard.

And he welcomed the fact that the new Pope was from Latin America;" It’s a shift in the church’s centre of gravity and a needful change."

In April 2005, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was one of 125 elector Cardinals who elected Pope Benedict XVI.

"I can still remember walking in and it looked absolutely magnificent in the Sistine Chapel. The wonderful frescoes of Michelangelo. The Last Judgement on the altar. And the wonderful images around the walls," he said on Sky TV, recalling the process as a solemn and a holy one.

"And then suddenly the junior Cardinal says: 'Everybody out. Extra Omnes,' and so all the servers, the ministers, the people go.

"And he shuts the huge doors with a big thud. And so there's just 115 of us and we all look at each other and think, well one of us is going to come out not with a scarlet cassock but with a white one".

Speaking recently at the Lenten Talks series at the Church of Our Lady of Grace and St. Edward, (prior to the Papal election), the Cardinal deviated from his set speech to tell anecdotes of his contacts with four of the last five Popes many of whom he had known before they rose to Papal office. He also spoke warmly of Pope Benedict and praised his intellect.

He was asked by a member of the audiance what given name he would have chosen if he had become Pope. Smiling, the Cardinal said he would have considered 'Gregory' and then he joked "Why not Cormac the First?

The Cardinal, who is the first Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, turned eighty last year and spends a good deal of time in Rome when he is not living in Chiswick.

March 14, 2013

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