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It was a stroke from above.

"Pope Francis"!

The one who rebuilt -- who rescued -- the Church.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The first Pope Francis.

From what we can gather thus far, they could not have chosen anyone better.

It was -- it seemed, in the electricity of the moment, in the "biggest moment for the world," as even secular media put it -- an intervention by the Holy Spirit.

We have a Pope!

From all appearances, a holy one.

A Marian one. A Jesuit who takes a Franciscan name!

Perhaps, a prophetic one.

He will steer the world through intense times. He emphasizes the Eucharist and Mary -- as in Saint Bosco's vision of the "two pillars." A comet is visible to the naked eye the very day of his election! In Florida, they claim an angel-shaped cloud was photographed by a TV cameraman at the time of the announcement. A bird roosts on the Sistine chimney -- as Saint Francis was always pictured with birds.

Humble. Prayerful.

A striking choice too in the realm of the temporal. This one, with us unto death.

With thirty-nine percent of the world's Catholics, Latin America, deserved to have a Pontiff -- a continent that is incredibly vibrant with Catholicism but also where the Church is threatened by "non-denominational" Christian churches that have made headway swaying many to their individual little churches (too often by besmirching Catholicism).

That will now be more difficult.

Look at some statistics:

South America maintains a huge Catholic population.

One hundred twenty million in Brazil alone (two and a half times the number of Catholics in the U.S.), which makes it the single largest population of Catholics anywhere.

In Argentina the figure is 33 million -- or nearly ninety percent of the population.

These are nations -- along with ones like Colombia and Bolivia and Chile and Venezuela -- that are ninety percent or more Catholic.

The great mystic Maria Esperanza was from Venezuela and had once said cryptically, "It will start here."

We have a Pope!

He galvanizes too the Spanish-speaking Catholics in North America.

This is a Pope who declined the last papal election, who declined living in the Buenos Aires cardinal's residence, who visited hospices (washing the feet of AIDS victims). Who warns against vanity among Church leaders.

Habemus papam!


Argentina is home to one of the very few modern apparitions approved by the Church -- San Nicolas, in the Province of Buenos Aires, where Mary delivered stern messages and said that "God's warnings cover the world."

In the rather succinct 1990 prophecy, this line: "Yet know too that God's Hand will be evident in South America. The world will not end but change."

A Pope who reportedly was happy when Monsignor Emilio Ogñénovich, retired Archbishop of Mercedes-Luján (Argentina), told him (in 2006) of plans to visit Medjugorje.

"Concerning Medjugorje, I will share my own personal conviction with my fellow bishops in the Bishops Conference of Argentina, and also with our cardinal, Mons. Bergoglio, who was very happy when I told him that I was going to Medjugorje," Mercedes-Luján had recalled. "If you ask me for my opinion about Medjugorje, I will tell you that it can be compared to a mother, a pregnant woman in the sixth month of pregnancy, who impatiently awaits the moment to see her child born, but nobody can hasten it, because the right moment will come in its own good time.”

The times are dramatic. We needed a prayerful pontiff. There are moments for administrators. There are moments for theologians.

What the Church needs now is prayer.

What the Church needs is a mystical touch.

And, thanks to the cardinals, from what we can see so far, we got it.

[see also: Archives: Argentina has Church-approved apparition, messages, The bishop's approval, and Argentinian messages]

[resources: Lenten books; Medjugorje pilgrimage, Michael Brown: purification, future, self-illumination]

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