The Pope's interview and 'mystical moment"

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When journalists look back at the important pieces of work we've produced, we typically ask two sorts of questions: Did I get the story right? Did I get the details right? John Allen reflects on the fine detail of the 'mystical moment' of Francis' interview.

- NCR

Naturally, the two things are related, because a big picture is made up of details. On the other hand, it's possible to let a couple of points get away without fundamentally distorting reality.

As things stand, when Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari looks back at his blockbuster interview with Pope Francis, he may feel some irritation on the second score, but he probably won't lose much sleep on the first.

Scalfari, who's 89, appears to have jumbled some of the fine points regarding a so-called 'mystical moment' experienced by the new Pope shortly after his election, but the bottom line is that something did happen, and it may have implications for understanding the spontaneity and boldness Francis has displayed ever since.

To recap, although the Vatican confirmed the basic 'trustworthiness' of the Scalfari interview last week, questions didn't go away about a section where Scalfari has the Pope describing what happened when he was elected the evening of March 13.

Scalfari quotes Francis as saying he initially considered refusing the papacy, and before he accepted, he left the Sistine Chapel for a moment of prayer in a small room off the balcony overlooking St Peter's Basilica. There, according to the text, he had a quasi-mystical experience that dispelled his anxiety. Afterward, Scalfari has the pope saying, he returned to the chapel, signed his act of acceptance and went off to present himself to the world.

Experts were immediately dubious, first for a technical reason -- there is no small room off the balcony, which is located in the middle of a long hallway.

Second, cardinals who had been inside the conclave already had described several aspects of what happened after the Pope's election, but none ever mentioned any delay by Francis in accepting the office. (For the record, describing the scene after a pope is elected is no violation of the cardinals' oath of secrecy because as a technical matter, the conclave is over.)

FULL STORY On the Pope's 'mystical moment'

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