VANCOUVER, Wash. — Where's the pope? He's stuck in a Vatican elevator.
Thousands of people who were gathered in St. Peter's Square for the traditional Sunday on-the-dot-of-noon appearance by Pope Francis were watching for the window of the Apostolic Palace to be thrown open so they could listen to the pope's remarks and receive his blessing. But after seven minutes, people were looking at each other quizzically: no pope?
Then Francis popped out and answered their question: "First of all I must excuse myself for being late. I was blocked in an elevator for 25 minutes."
Apparently referring to electrical power, Francis explained that there was a "drop in tension," causing the elevator to get stuck.
"Thank God the firefighters intervened," Francis said, referring to tiny Vatican City State's own fire department.
He then asked for a round of applause for his rescuers, and went ahead with his regular remarks and blessings, concluding with an announcement that he has chosen 13 churchmen to become the Church's newest cardinals.
Francis made the surprise announcement Sunday from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square.
Several of his picks come from developing countries, like Cuba, Congo and Guatemala. Two are based in predominantly Muslim countries: Morocco and Indonesia.
"Their provenance expresses the missionary vocation of the Church to continue to announce the merciful love of God to all men on Earth," the pope said before reading aloud a list of their names.
Three of the 13 men are 80 or over and thus ineligible to vote in any conclave to elect a new pontiff. Francis said he wanted to honor the three for distinguished service to the church, including a Lithuanian prelate who was sentenced to years in Soviet-era work camps and exiled to Siberia for his faith.
The ceremony to formally give the churchmen the red cardinal hat will be held on Oct. 5 at the Vatican.
With Francis' papacy heavily focused on the needs of those living on society's margins, including migrants, he chose two men whose clerical careers reflect such concerns.
The Vatican didn't say if the pope was alone in the elevator or accompanied by any of his aides.