Witness to History in Eternal City

East Hampton priest in Rome for Pope Francis’s selection and first Mass
Msgr. Charles Guarino of Most Holy Trinity Parish said he was blessed to be in Vatican City for the election and inaugural Mass of Pope Francis. Msgr. Charles Guarino

    Msgr. Charles Guarino of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in East Hampton said in an e-mail that he was “filled with joy and ready to return home to Montauk” on Tuesday, after being in Rome for the monumental occasion of the election of Pope Francis, the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
    He was in Rome for a course of study and was scheduled to return yesterday.
    Along with thousands of others, including dignitaries from all over the world, he said he was beyond thrilled to see Pope Francis wave and bless the crowd and incense the altar at his inaugural Mass on Tuesday.
    “I can’t begin to describe the feelings of excitement and genuine gratitude to have witnessed this historical moment in the life of our church,” he wrote on the church’s Web site. His experience included the moment when “the sfumata bianca was pouring out of the Sistine chimney” last Wednesday night, announcing that the conclave of cardinals had chosen a new pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. He is the first Latin American pope, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first Jesuit.
    Monsignor Guarino said the ringing of the great bells of St. Peter’s informed those in the cold, rainy piazza that “our waiting was being rewarded and that indeed we have a new Pope whom we now know is Pope Francis!”
    “Blessed to be six rows from the Papal throne on Wednesday,” Msgr. Guarino said he heard languages from around the world which signaled the universality of a church that welcomed those from all countries.
    “What a beautiful way to begin!” he wrote, referring to the pope’s request for prayers for Pope Benedict XVI and for himself, while bowing in a posture of prayer. 
    Msgr. Guarino called his trip “both dramatic and historic,” and said it was hard to define the range of emotions that those present were feeling. He commended the former pope’s attempt to “bring about healing to a church wounded by scandals,” while admitting that “even by his personal high standards, nothing would be enough to begin that much needed healing.”
    The visiting priest also had some drama of his own during his visit to Rome — a three-day stay in the hospital with a bad case of bronchitis. The illness did not stop his appreciation of the incredibly blue sky in Rome he said. It comforted him as he watched as the Cardinals proceed into the Sistine Chapel to take their individual oaths of secrecy, chanting the “Veni Sancte Spiritu.” He wondered which one of them would be the new pope, and how they might bring healing and reform to the church.
    “It is a good and exciting time to be a Catholic and, yes, we all need to rediscover and recapture that pride in who we are as His church. We have been wounded but we are still alive. We have been disappointed and even scandalized but the church survives. Thus it has always been, thus it is now, and thus it will always be,” he wrote.
    After all is said and done, he said, he looks forward to leaving the Eternal City and returning home to assist the Mission Church of St. Peter the Apostle in Amagansett.