Students at St. Ann Catholic School in Decatur were glued to their classrooms’ interactive whiteboards showing white smoke stream from the Sistine Chapel chimney, signaling a new pope had been selected Wednesday afternoon.
Wyatt Albrecht, 8, said he was surprised Jorge Bergoglio, of Argentina, who chose the name Pope Francis, wasn’t wearing the ornate headdress usually associated with the pope. St. Ann Principal Maria Nolen said teachers in middle school religion classes followed the selection of the new pope closely, while younger classes only touched upon it.
“When the bishop comes (from next-door Annunciation of the Lord Catholic Church), the second- and third-graders say, ‘Yay, it’s the pope!’ ” Nolen said, laughing. “And we have to say, ‘No, that’s the bishop.’ So today was a learning moment.”
Nolen said her students were ecstatic, and she shared their excitement.
“It is a happy time for us,” she said. “We have our shepherd to herd us.”
Pope Francis, 76, chose his name after a 13th-century Italian preacher who lived a life of poverty. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was known for denying luxuries that previous cardinals enjoyed.
Albrecht’s mother, Neeshia Albrecht, saw the announcement on her phone while grocery shopping Wednesday.
She was fascinated by the fact that Francis is the first Jesuit pope and by his simple lifestyle, referencing his request that Argentinian well-wishers donate money to the poor instead of buying plane tickets to Rome when he was appointed a cardinal.
“He is a champion for fighting poverty,” Albrecht said.
“He has chosen to live a simple lifestyle. I think he doesn’t take on the trappings sometimes associated with the position.”
Ben Montgomery can be reached at 256-340-2445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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