I would like to interrupt my normal procession of blog posts to document history. So, let me tell you about my night.
Yesterday I had class until 4:30. After class, a bunch of my friends and I decided that we wanted to see the smoke from the Papal Conclave that evening, because it was probably going to be our only chance to see it. Let me preface this with the fact that we had entirely believed that it would be black smoke, and we even had arranged for someone to stop at the grocery store so that when we were done at St. Peter’s Square (smoke wouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes, right?) we could go straight home and cook dinner.
Allen (who is visiting for his spring break right now) and Liz and I went to Castel Sant’ Angelo to kill time before it was time to head over and see the smoke. When 6:30 rolled around, we met up with Abby outside by the river. It was cold. and wet. and rainy. I would have been fine going home to warmth, but darn it I wanted to see some smoke.
So we got to the square and waited. We took pictures and oogled over all the people, and complained about the umbrellas disrupting the view. Then a little after 7 we saw some smoke. At first, it almost looked gray and possibly black, maybe this was due to the fact that no one expected the smoke to be white yet. But then we heard the bells that signaled a new pope had been elected. SO the entire crowd let out a collective “awww…” that lead into screaming once we realized the smoke was, in fact, white. It sounded a little something like this: “awwwWAAAHHHHHH”
Screaming. so much screaming. I screamed, I even cried. I could not believe it. We had a Pope. We frantically took pictures of it, and the smoke lasted a while (probably 10 minutes or so). It was so exciting!
We attempted to call people to let them know (friends, roommates, families, etc.) but apparently all of St. Peter’s Square was doing the same thing so it was nearly impossible to get a call through.
Then the waiting began. We ran up closer. We had been standing a bit of a ways back in the square because the smoke is so high, you can see it from the back, and since we thought it was going to be black smoke, we figured the back would make for an easy getaway. Anyways, we ran up closer to the Basilica, because that’s where the Pope would be introduced.
We waited. We were informed that it took about 45 minutes between white smoke and the appearance of the new pope. Well, for future reference, it takes more along the lines of an hour and ten minutes. It was a lot of standing around as the square got more and more packed. All of Rome was there.
When the lights finally turned on in the basilica, there was more screaming. Then the balcony doors opened and out came a man who announced: “Habemus Papam” which means “we have a pope.” He also announced who the Cardinal elected Pope was and the name he chose.
Then, the moment we had all been waiting for: Pope Francesco (Francis) the first stepped out onto the balcony. Tears, prayers, shouting, and screaming were all a part of this moment. Instantly people began cheering “Viva il Papa” and “Viva Francesco.” It was all so surreal and beautiful. The sight of Pope Francis I on the center balcony, with the rest of the Cardinals filled in the balconies to his right and left is a memory I will never forget. I feel so unbelievably blessed to have been able to witness such a historic event in person and actually feel the emotions pulsating through the city. It was buonissimo. The best in the world.
ALSO: if you did not know, Pope Francis I incorporates three firsts for the Papacy- the first Francis, the first Pope from the Americas, and the first Jesuit pope.