Habemus Papam

March 13, 2013

The news is now known. Pope Francis succeeds to Pope Benedict. I was blessed to be present, along with a few colleagues, amongst the crowd when the white smoke came out of the chimney installed on the Sistine Chapel's rooftop. How could I describe with simplicity the crowd's reaction at that moment? I am short of words. The smoke was obviously white and the basilica's bells soon voiced their merry chime. It took a while before the basilica's facade gradually, almost timidly lit up.

As in a well-run scenario, the Swiss Guard, the papal fanfare, some guards from the three services of the Italian Forces and the Carabinieri all took position at the foot of the balcony to pay the new pontiff honour and respect.  

Finally the large balcony doors open up and we hear the traditional announcement by the Cardinal deacon: "Habemus papam!" The joy is indescribable, the crowd is incredibly dense and we look forward to the appearance of this brand new Pope. His choice of a name surprised us all. Who is he? Where does he come from? People around me are typing away on their phones' keyboard to find out more.  

Suddenly, he is there, standing straight and motionless, probably in shock to find himself before this human sea, greeting him and chanting his name. Not a move, not a gesture on his part. Then timidly, he speaks out somewhat timidly, in Italian and already he conquers his diocese: "You know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to get him." He had won our hearts. For a brief moment, I remember John-Paul 1, timidly smiling to the crowd. There is much emotion in that crowd!  

The pastor he wants to be reveals himself, with much simplicity, when he asks that before he blesses us, we pray the Lord so that His blessing may descend upon him, and then bowing in a gesture of humility. Spontaneously the crowd becomes silent. A true silence. He then calls on the universal Church and on his diocese the long-awaited blessing. He invites us to pray again: pater, ave, gloria. This is clearly a man of prayer. The Lord gave us a nod: the rain has stopped... just for a short while.  

Yes, we have a pope. I have never felt such complicity between him and the people of his diocese as when he sent us all home. He truly is the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter. Great joy for the Church of Jesus Christ!

Richard Saint-Louis, d.p. 


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