Yes! Pope Francis is not from Europe! (updated)

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All together now: Raise your hands if you wanted to throw something at the television screen the 666th time, or thereabouts, that CNN put up that graphic announcing that the newly named Pope Francis — formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina — was the “first non-European pope.”

For the moment, let’s set aside St. Peter himself.

Last time I checked, Africa is not part of Europe and, in the first millennium, there were popes from northern Africa. So what is the best wording to capture the historic nature of this choice?

Among the early coverage, I thought that this Associated Press lede was solid and did a good job of describing the importance of the new pontiff’s homeland. I am curious, however, about Bergoglia losing his Cardinal title right up front.

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope Wednesday, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. He chose the name Francis, associating himself with the humble 13th-century Italian preacher who lived a life of poverty.

Looking stunned, Francis shyly waved to the crowd of tens of thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the announcement, marveling that the cardinals needed to look to “the end of the earth” to find a bishop of Rome.

At this point, it’s pretty clear that the new pope offered few early soundbites that will make life easy for the headline writers. At the Washington, D.C., bar at which I was sitting, some were rather amazed that he did not speak a blessing or greeting in Spanish.

In the Twitter age, everyone is rushing to post memorable reaction quotes from — of course — celebrities. Here is one early set care of CBS News. Here’s a spiffy list from The Wall Street Journal. Oh, and how is the word “notable” defined in this case?

As I rode home on my commuter train, I started thinking about the venerable tradition of trying to predict how various newspapers and magazines would react to the end of the world. You know, like this:

USA Today: WE’RE DEAD

The Wall Street Journal: DOW JONES PLUMMETS AS WORLD ENDS

National Enquirer: OJ AND NICOLE, TOGETHER AGAIN

The New York Times: MILLIONS SEE HUMAN IN SKY, CLAIM IT’S JESUS CHRIST; CLINTON ADMINISTRATION BLAMES RELIGIOUS RIGHT

Inside: Commentary by Stephen Hawking, Anthony Lewis, A.N. Wilson, Harold Kushner, Steven Jay Gould, Yanni

So with that in mind, I offered up a few commuter-train tweets along those lines, reacting to the news of the first Latinio pope. Please add your own in the comments pages! I’m stumped on The National Catholic Reporter angle.

Also, who will get the first reaction quote from the omnipresent Father Thomas Reese, who is, of course, a Jesuit.

We can also use the comments section as an open thread zone on reactions to early coverage, backed with URLs for the good, the bad and the obvious.

So let’s start with some of those tweets. Please excuse some of the typos. I have old, un-hip thumbs.

Well, DUH. Obviously, that one was supposed to say, “Can he grow to support reform of ancient doctrines?”

Carry on, folks.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://derekjohnsonmuses.com Derek Johnson

    The media reaction reminds me of something you said on Issues Etc.: the media does not believe a story is a story until they start to care about it. How hard would it be to call Francis the first non-European pope since 900 or whenever it is. …

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    But, AP, there are other St. Francises than the poor man of Assisi . There is St. Francis Xavier–a Jesuit like Bergoglio. And Francis Xavier was an evangelist of the type they say the new pope admires and wants to emulate. When Benedict XVI was first asked about which Benedict he named himself after. It was reported that he said: “all of them!”

  • Martha

    Our own national broadcasting station had the newsreader twice saying that this was the first non-European pope. I sent off an email that this wasn’t so; he’s the first non-European since the 8th century or so, but not our first ever.

    Deacon John, someone else also pointed out that there’s St. Francis Borgia, which I can’t help hoping gets more widely mentioned in the media, because I want to see what happens when they try joining the dots between a Jesuit pope and a Borgia. Yes, it’s unseemly of me, but I can’t help it :-)

  • Julia

    And there was that recent salacious series on HBO or some such about that family. It would absolutely blow the minds of some MSM types.

  • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

    The talk page on Pope Francis’ Wikipedia article records people reduced to SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS to attempt to convey, over and over again, that Francis is NOT THE FIRST NON-EUROPEAN POPE to dunderheads who refused to stop editing the article to say that he is. It took a bit, but the article is fixed now.

  • tmatt

    Deacon:

    The word from Rome is that a pope named for Francis Xavier would be named Pope Francis Xavier — specifically.

    Also, folks, here is a key biography link on the new pope, from the cyber pen of — naturally — John L. Allen, Jr.

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/papabile-day-men-who-could-be-pope-13

  • Larry Marshall

    Not Hollywood Weekly: New Pope gets nickname from Bill Murray’s “Stripes”: Lighten Up Francis

  • Jerry

    Which Francis the Pope chose is becoming a bit of a question. I submitted a post to GR that businessweek got it right when they said no one knows but the Pope. Then I happened to look at Wikipedia which references the following to show it’s Francis of Assisi. So Terry told me to post that and here it is:

    Since my last email report, I found the following on wikipedia. So do the cites #28, #29 and #30 from Wikipedia count as authoritative?

    Cardinal Dolan, a first-person witness and participant in the proceedings of the Conclave confirmed that immediately after the selection was announced, the new Pope said “I choose the name Francis, in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.”[28] Vatican spokesman Tom Rosica, also verified that Bergoglio chose Francis in honor of Francis of Assisi.[29][30] However, those not initially aware of the statement made by the new Pope in the Conclave mistakenly believed that, as a Jesuit, he chose Francis after Francis Xavier.[31][32]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jorge_Bergoglio

  • Will

    While awaiting the revelation, NBC talking heads speculated on whether the electee would be “The first North American Pope”, and noted that “two cardinals” (O’Malley and Dolan) had been mentioned in this regard. Apparently it never occurred to them that Ouellet is also “North American”.

    And at the same time, we were told that we were awaiting the announcement of “what name THEY choose to be known by.” A little later, commentators did get around to saying “he” in this connection. (There is no such thing as Political Correctness…. there is no such thing as Political Correctness…)

  • FW Ken

    Almost the entire NBC Nightly News program today was devoted to the election and presentation of the new pope. No Fr. Reese in sight. Rather, they had George Weigle, who is sort of an anti-Reese. Tomorrow, I predict they will report on whether the new pope collaborated with the military dictatorship or acted heroically.

    For grins and giggles, I went cruising the Argentinian press for local color. This was the best I found, with pros and cons, and a fair amount of reaction. I don’t know Spanish, so I might have been getting coverage pitched to gringos. But it was interesting anyway.

    http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/126316/election-astounds-country

    • Bro AJK

      NPR might have had stories similar to that. It’s too early to research on their site, and 5:15 AM is too early for anyone to be fully awake.

  • JoFro

    He is only the first non-European Pope in 1200 years if we are only taking “European” to mean geographically and not ethnically.
    Geographically speaking, he is the first non-European Pope in 1200 years – the last one being a Syrian.
    Ethnically speaking, he is still a European, being a first-generation Argentine, born to Italian parents.

  • Graham

    I am in New Zealand – the TV commentary was so crass with so many wrong facts, had I not wanted to watch the arrival of the new Pope on to the balcony I would have thrown my TV out the window. Why on earth cannot people do some research before they open their mouths, or at least have someone standing by with the facts. Even the reporter we had standing in St Peter’s Square gave us wrong statement after wrong statement – and at one point liking the response of the faithful to that of a football match.
    Already the media, and some web sites, are at the poor man for what he hasn’t achieved. Sad, sad, sad – what utter garbage 99% of the media is giving us.

  • JoFro

    Not MSNBC – Pope still Catholic

  • Julia

    I loved the CNN commentator Fr Cutie. Who thought that was a good idea? Otherwise good coverage.

  • jcs

    Actually from the Washington Post [retweeted from a columnist] — this is how he summarized the 1800-word NCR article:

    Bergoglio, Pope Francis: “orthodox on .. sexual morality..opposing abortion, same-sex marriage..contraception.”

    https://twitter.com/JoelAchenbach/status/311922538567569408

  • http://www.doulos.at Wolf Paul

    ORF Austrian TV had a reporter there who had trouble producing a credible translation of the Lord’s Prayer — of course that was an unplanned improvisation by Pope Francis.

    Its also interesting how many call him Francis I — superfluous since noone knows whether there will ever be a Francis II.


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