ROME – On a misty Sunday evening in Rome, Sister Gloria Bongkonoy scuttled back and forth from the Santa Pudenziana church to the small parish office next door. “As you can see, we are busy this weekend,” she grinned, as worshippers filed down the narrow steps from the sloping Via Urbana 20 feet above. The Mass they were gathering for was celebrated not in Italian or Latin or even English, but in Tagalog, the national language of Sister Gloria’s homeland, the Philippines. When asked about hopes that Manila’s Cardinal Luis Tagle – “pronounced Tag-lay,” as she corrected me – would be elected Pope, Sister Gloria merely smiled and said “we are hoping that the will of God will be done in the conclave.”
ROME – The day after former Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Bergoglio was elected head of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics, Ariadna Estetania Cabello Rendace was among a group of Argentinians standing in the evening cold in St Peter’s Square, watching on video screens in the vast cobble-stoned piazza as the new Pope said Mass under the blue-background splendour of Michelangelo’s Biblical frescoes inside the Sistine Chapel. “Last night, when they announced the new papa, we were standing over there, near the fountain,” she said, pointing across the square. “When he said ‘Argentina’, I said ‘What? Who? I cannot believe’.”
ROME — “We are praying for it,” says Ferdinand de Guzman, standing in the doorway of the Santa Pudenziana church, about a mile from the Colosseum and the Lateran Basilica, two famous Roman landmarks. The Filipino Catholic was speaking about the possibility that his compatriot, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, could emerge as Pope after the conclave, which starts Tuesday. “If God wills it, he will be Pope, but if not, we will surely support our new Holy Father whoever that may be,” said de Guzman, from Tarlac in the Philippines but now in his 20th year living in Rome.