By Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A first glimpse of a man in white and cheers erupted from crowds jamming in at St. Peter’s Square.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit who had been ready to retire as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, was chosen and some say transformed.
Rocco Palmo, writer of Whispers In The Loggia, says, “He was always very serious, very dower.”
People who have known him for decades say what got into him? He said, “Something has come over me after the election and hasn’t left.”
That “something” magnetically draws tens of thousands each week to St. Peter’s Square.
Francis fans are captivated by his simple humility, a call to help the poor, to step away from the privileged trappings of the papacy.
“Young and old and people in between now say OUR Pope.”
Father Kevin Gallagher of St. Denis Parish in Havertown calls Pope Francis’ appeal remarkable.
“I think the Holy Father coming from South America is much more aware of suffering. There are areas that we need not judge, but we need to be in.”
In his open ‘Pope Mobile,’ Francis spends nearly an hour among those who’ve come to pray with him.
Children dressed like him are thrust into his arms for kisses.
Kelly Robinson sees it as invigorating for what she described as a ‘fractured church.’
“I think the focus on the poor has been kind of lost in the shuffle. That’s where he’s redirecting everyone’s focus. I think it’s so valuable.”
On Ash Wednesday, Francis, who is now 77-years-old, directed those who work for him to remember their priorities.
“He’s even calling his own staff to remember that people I inherited think they’re God and they still don’t realize that they’re not.”
Reform inside the Vatican has been slow.
One year ago, the power shifted and with it a renewed vision of what the Catholic Church should be.