On March 13th we heard that the little known Cardinal Jorge Begoglio, 76 years old, from Agentina was to be Pope Francis. When he first appeared on that balcony, looking somewhat pensive, we did not know the now familiar ‘back-story’. He takes the bus, cooks for himself and lives in a small flat… He had been given only 70 minutes to prepare to meet the world.
He then made the greatest first impression in history!
The ‘crowds in St Peter’s Square went crazy’. The billions viewing seemingly made their minds up, instantly, that they liked, even loved this man and read in him a new style for the Church, a welcome change in attitude and behavior. All this within a few minutes.
It may have been God given, but it was communication artistry as well.
His so well chosen first words “Brother and Sisters – Buona sera” , so simple, but totally unexpected from a Pope, captivated us and gave him a relaxed start. He smiled naturally and often, non Pope-like. His gestures were also natural and open without ceremony. He used story telling and gentle humour- about his selection: “And it seems they went almost to the ends of the earth to find him. But we’re here”.
He paused and took his time, engaging in a gentle one-on-one conversation not delivering a speech to the watching millions. He ended by wishing us all “Buon pranzo”- Have a good lunch. And smiled again.
As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Pope Francis knew this.