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 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT