There’s something different about Jorge Mario Bergoglio since he became Pope Francis, friends and relatives say.
When Bergoglio was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, “he shunned the spotlight, and on those rare occasions when he did have to appear in public, he often came off as formal and, some would say, a bit boring,” writes John L. Allen in the National Catholic Reporter.
When Allen talked to the new pontiff’s younger sister, “she said that since he’s become pope, her usually shy and reserved brother has seemed ‘better able to express his feelings’ in public.”
A cardinal even told Francis: “You’re not the same guy I knew in Argentina.”
So what caused the change in Bergoglio’s public persona?
Moments before the new pontiff stepped out onto the balcony to be introduced to the world, he entered the Pauline Chapel for a few moments of private prayer, Msgr. Dario Viganò, the director of the Vatican Television Center who was filming right before the “Habemus Papam” announcement, says in a Salt and Light interview. When Francis was finished praying, “he stands up, turns around, and at that moment he’s a different person,” Viganò says. “It’s as if God had said to him personally, ‘Don’t worry, I’m here with you.’ ”
The pope told the cardinal: “When I was elected, a great sense of inner peace and freedom came over me, and it’s never left me.”
“In other words,” Allen writes, “Francis had a sort of mystical experience upon his election to the papacy that’s apparently freed him up to be far more spontaneous, candid and bold than at any previous point in his career.”