STEUBENVILLE - The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville joined nearly 200,000 people Tuesday morning for an outdoor installation Mass for Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square.
The Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, had been planning for a trip to Rome this week to address a youth conference at the Pontifical Lateran University Saturday.
"But as events unfolded with Pope Benedict XVI announcing his resignation and then the election of Pope Francis, I realized I might have an opportunity to be at the installation Mass," he said.
"When I arrived in Rome it was raining and it continued to rain until Tuesday. The Holy Father must have had some pull because it was an absolutely beautiful day for an outdoor Mass. Today was sunny with bright, blue skies. And the forecast is calling for more rain this week. But today was beautiful. It couldn't have been a better day," Henry said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.
"I felt very fortunate to have been an eyewitness to history. It was awesome to see the keys of St. Peter transferred from one pope to another pope," he added.
"I was a history major. That was always my favorite subject. Today I felt I was an eyewitness to church history," remarked Henry.
The Argentine native is the first pope from Latin America and the first named for the 13th-century friar St. Francis of Assisi, whose life's work was to care for nature, the poor and most disadvantaged.
"I was able to get a real good vantage point in the square and was able to take a lot of photos. The Mass started at 9:30 a.m., so I arrived in the square at around 8 a.m. The new pope spoke in Italian, which brought a great reaction from the massive crowd. But I was able to obtain an English translation of his comments," said Henry.
"As the square began to fill up with people you could see the people in the street leading to the Tiber River. There were literally people everywhere wanting to be a part of the installation Mass," reported Henry.
"I personally felt a great love for Pope Francis and you could see and hear the love for him in the crowd. I believe Francis will be more informal than Pope Benedict was. He is very interested in meeting and greeting the regular people. Of course when you choose the name Francis you set the bar very high," commented Henry.
"He really does seem like he is going to be a man of the people. He is very genuine. He chose the name Francis because at the moment of his election as pope, the chief cardinal of South America approached him and advised him to remember the poor. St. Francis of Assisi loved the poor and was a maker of peace. I believe we will see these themes emerge in his papacy," stated Henry.
"St. Francis of Assisi always landed on his feet because his feet were planted in Rome. I believe Pope Francis will be an excellent pope and spiritual leader of the world," added Henry.
"And after the Mass I had to hoof it back to where I am staying along with 200,000 people all leaving the square. It was a massive people jam," laughed Henry.
"Francis is the seventh pope I have lived under. But I never attended the installation of a pope. Today was an awesome opportunity for me that I will always remember," said Henry.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)