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 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT