Pope Francis (birth name Jorge Mario Bergoglio) is the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He has served as pope since 2013.
In an interview a few months after his election to pope he briefly discussed mystics, mysticism, and mystical experience. Some of the things he said were:
[The mystics] have been fundamental. A religion without mystics is a philosophy… I love the mystics.
Although he chose his papal name in honor of a well known Christian mystic, Saint Francis of Assisi, he said that he doesn’t consider himself of the mystical “vocation.”
However, when asked if he’d had any mystical moments, Pope Francis shared an experience which I hadn’t heard before, which occurred just prior to his acceptance of the papacy and his announcement as Pope:
Rarely. For example, when the conclave elected me Pope. Before I accepted I asked if I could spend a few minutes in the room next to the one with the balcony overlooking the square. My head was completely empty and I was seized by a great anxiety. To make it go way and relax I closed my eyes and made every thought disappear, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows. I closed my eyes and I no longer had any anxiety or emotion. At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting and the table on which was the act of acceptance. I signed it, the Cardinal Camerlengo countersigned it and then on the balcony there was the “Habemus Papam.”Source: “The light we bear in our souls,” interview with Pope Francis by Eugenio Scalfari in La Repubblica Oct. 1, 2013
Although this experience seems very simple, subtle, and unflashy, it still bears resemblance to Joseph Smith’s First Vision, and mystical experiences generally:
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- He was seized by a distressed and anxious state of mind, a great uneasiness.
- He entered a prayer-like meditative state of mind.
- The darkness or negativity of his thoughts went away, or gave way from his mind.
- He was filled with a great light.
- There were changes in the perception of time.
- The light eventually departed.
- He then had a renewed peace, calmness, and confidence to move on with what he felt was his calling.