Argentinian student Francisco waves flag for new Pope

Lone blue and white striped flag easily spotted in crowded sea of expectation in rapidly-filled St Peter’s Square

They had to be the luckiest Argentinian family in the whole wide world. Well, certainly in St Peter’s Square. They were easily spotted, if murder to get to. The blue-and-white stripes Argentine flag being vigorously waved was a giveaway. It was the only Argentine flag in that crowded sea of expectation and wet heads which rapidly filled the square following white smoke from the Sistine chimney.

It was being carried by Francisco (20), a student of music in Buenos Aires. "The same name as the pope," he noted helpfully, enthusiastically. And he knew the new pope. "He's a very humble man, good for poor persons," he said.

As for Francisco the student he was “very Catholic”. He “screamed and jumped” when he heard who the new pope was. He and his family of seven were in Rome on a holiday and they had bought the flag to wave in the square so people at home in Buenos Aires might pick them out in TV coverage.

Francisco's mother Dolores explained they had intended visiting Rome next year but when Pope Benedict resigned they decided to do so now. She too knows the new pope and had heard him speak.


"He's very near the people and very honest. I think he is going to do big things for the church." And, though he was born in Italy, she was particularly delighted he was the first South American pope.

As for Francisco he couldn't say whether the election of the new pope was as good for Argentina as winning the World Cup as he wasn't alive when that last happened.

Two other enthusiastic men there were Fr Michael Kilmartin from Mullingar and Fr Defek Darby from Ashbourne Co Meath. Fr Kilmartin had met the new pope in Buenos Aires three years ago, at Corpus Christi events. "He's a very down to earth man. He only uses public transport. He is very prayerful."

He believed the election of Pope Francis marked the beginning of a new phase in church history. "You had Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, then Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI," he said, explaining the point. It was "wonderful, for the church, wonderful for Argentina, wonderful for us all".

All around the crowds chanted Viva Il Papa, Viva Il Papa as they began to move away.

The smokewatch was over for the conclave. White smoke after five votes, just one more than led to the election of Pope Benedict XVI on April 19th, 2005.

And this time there was no dispute over the colour. And the bells rang.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times