Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

The biggest moment in the world

By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Thu March 14, 2013
Before becoming Pope Francis, he was Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires. The announcement for the selection of a new pope came on Wednesday, March 13, the first full day of the cardinals' conclave in the Sistine Chapel. Before becoming Pope Francis, he was Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires. The announcement for the selection of a new pope came on Wednesday, March 13, the first full day of the cardinals' conclave in the Sistine Chapel.
HIDE CAPTION
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bob Greene: Before radio, TV, pope's appearance was most dramatic way to announce news
  • New pope's appearance on the balcony of St. Peter's is a moment like no other, he says
  • Greene: You could see the impact of the moment in the pope's eyes

Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"; "Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War" and "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen."

(CNN) -- You could see it in his eyes.

Even before Pope Francis spoke his first words to the throngs in St. Peter's Square, you could look into his eyes and sense the wonder.

The world was looking at him. But he was looking at something, too: at all those upturned faces. At all the eyes staring back at him.

Nothing can possibly prepare a person for such a sight.

Bob Greene
Bob Greene

In this life, there are moments, and then there are Moments. The first appearance of a new pope on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica has always been a Moment like no other.

Before there was telegraphy, before there was radio, before there was television, before there was the Internet, before there was Twitter, the vision -- the solemn orchestration -- of a newly elected pope stepping onto the balcony was the most dramatic possible way of bringing huge news to the world.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



It somehow still is.

Opinion: Francis, open up the church

"I would like to thank you for your embrace," the new pope said, gazing out at all those eyes.

Reverend: Pope didn't follow the book

When authors and orators have searched for ways to express the ultimate example of reverential exaltation, the periodically repeated scene in St. Peter's Square, down through the centuries, has often been the one they have turned to.

Tom Wolfe, in his book "The Right Stuff," about the original Mercury astronauts, wanted to describe for readers just what level of devotion the newly named astronauts had received from the American people. The seven pilots had been just that -- fighter pilots, test pilots -- before being selected for the space program. Suddenly, they were something else. People would see them and begin crying.

Wolfe came up with the one ideal analogy to portray the phenomenon:

"The boys wouldn't have minded the following. They wouldn't have minded appearing once a year on a balcony over a huge square in which half the world is assembled. They wave. The world roars its approval, its applause, and breaks into a thirty-minute storm of cheers and tears. ... A little adulation on the order of the Pope's; that's all the True Brothers at the top of the pyramid really wanted."

Opinion: Pope Francis, humble, authentic and credible

But humility is not required of fighter pilots and astronauts. Nor is it required of rock stars or professional athletes or any of the many other public performers, in disparate venues, who are regularly introduced with carefully planned and marketed majesty designed to elevate them in the eyes of their audiences.

A pope is different, and his introduction to the world is like no other. When Wednesday morning dawned in Rome, a man named Jorge Mario Bergoglio was one of millions of people preparing to commence the new day.

By the time the day was over, he was no longer Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and he was no longer one of millions.

As Pope Francis, he stepped onto that balcony and was greeted by that sight.

From behind his eyeglasses, he took it all in.

The eyes of the world met his.

He asked for prayers.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bob Greene.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT