I have been following and writing about the conclave and the election of Pope Benedict XVI’s successor. But I was pleasantly surprised by my own emotions, when I saw white smoke coming out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.


I was glued to the TV screen just before I drove to the TFC studio for Balitang America. I knew I had to leave soon, but I just had to hear the church bells ring to confirm that the next pope has been chosen.


From the time the white smoke came out of the chimney, it took a little more than an hour before the name of the new Pope was made public. The Balitang America staff watched history unfold together before we delivered the news to our TFC (The Filipino Channel) viewers.


Habemus Papam” or “We have a Pope!”


Some kababayans were disappointed that it was not Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle that the 115 cardinals elected in the conclave to be the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. But it did not take long for most of them, this writer included, to love the new pope.


The chosen one is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a 76-year-old Jesuit priest from Argentina.


He was the one who came out of the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.


His name was not among those rumored to be top contenders for the papacy, so I initially had no idea about his background. I could only look at him as he waved to more than 100,000 Catholics and tourists, who were drenched in rain at St. Peter’s Square.


There was something serene about his aura. Even before he spoke -- his eyes, radiant smile, and gentle demeanor already reflected a humble, caring soul. 


As he spoke to the people in the Square and to Catholics from all over the world; as he requested for the people to pray for him and bless him; as he bestowed his blessing to the crowd; as he lead “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Hail Mary” and “Glory Be,” -- his gentle, reassuring voice calmed my spirit and warmed my heart. I prayed with him.


At that point, I felt a trusting connection with the new pontiff, who chose to be called Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi.


The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi has been my prayer, whenever I need to be grounded on my faith.


“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.


Where there is hatred, let me sow love;


where there is injury,pardon;


where there is doubt, faith;


where there is despair, hope;


where there is darkness, light;


and where there is sadness, joy.


O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek


to be consoled as to console;


to be understood as to understand;


to be loved as to love.


For it is in giving that we receive;


it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;


and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen”


Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name “Francis” as his papal name to honor the 12th century saint known for his simple lifestyle, austerity and dedication to the works of mercy.


My respect for the new pope grew even deeper, when I found out that  he has always lived the prayer of St. Francis in his life.


As you have probably heard by now, Pope Francis as archbishop of Buenos Aires (then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio), moved out of the mansion owned by his diocese and instead chose to live in a small apartment. He took the bus to work, washed his own clothes and lived the life of an ordinary person.


He is a man reported to have deep concern and love for the poor.


Even after being chosen as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis still lives humbly.


He reportedly did not sit on the traditional throne to accept the oaths of allegiance from the cardinals after his election last Wednesday.


He also refused to ride in a private car back to the Santa Marta Residence that night, choosing instead to ride the bus with the cardinals who elected him, personally paid his own hotel bills.


I have always prayed the next Pope would be a Jesuit -- that prayer was answered in Pope Francis. Jesuits are known to be free thinkers, progressive and open minded--think Father Joaquin Bernas and the Ateneo de Manila University brand of education. 


The Jesuits’ motto is to help souls by being a “man for others.” Pope Francis is a living testament to that.


Pope Francis’ lifelong mission is to bring the Catholic Church closer to people. His behavior as a Cardinal then, and as the Pope now, will help knock down the perceived walls of aristocracy that alienates the Vatican from many Catholics.


Through his example, he shows that in order to be a follower of God, one must serve rather than be served.


We have always prayed that our next pope would be somebody who reminds us of Jesus -- not just through what he preaches, but through the life he lives.


As LA Times reported, Pope Francis himself said last year: “Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask...BECOME THE WORD in body as well as spirit.”


The world now looks up to him with such high expectations, on how he will address the challenges, turmoil, corruption and sex scandals in the Catholic Church.


Long live, Pope Francis! You give me hope.


Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of ABS-CBN TFC’s “Balitang America”. This article originally appeared in the Asian Journal where she also writes op-ed pieces. Visit Gel's blogsite to read more Fil-AM Perspectives. Follow her on Twitter @GelSantosRelos.