White Smoke!

These events are unforgettable. I thank God for the chance to be present and to witness these events as a future priest. Due to our love for the pope, regardless of who he is, this moment will be with me for the rest of my life.
by Juan José Hernández, LC | Source: Catholic.net
After a quick snack, I sat down at my desk and began to pull out my books. It was 5:30 pm. It’s never easy to study philosophy but I was especially distracted right now. I not only had to battle with “being as such,” but I also had to stop myself from thinking about the conclave which was in the process of electing the pope.

At 5:55 pm, my battle ended abruptly. The news had arrived. White smoke! We have a new pope!

In less than five minutes, my fellow seminarians and I were dashing out to the buses. We tuned-in on the bus radio to confirm the news, and when we heard the bells of the Basilica ringing, we peeled off…well, as much as you can peel off in a fifty passenger bus.

As we headed towards St Peter’s we could see everyone heading in the same direction and many people were running. Others were waiting for public transportation with the slight look of anxiety that usually accompanies such endeavors. When it seemed the bus could go no further, we jumped off.

We still had about a mile to go to reach St Peter’s Square. We started out at a brisk pace trying to get to the square before the Pope appeared. Still quite far from the plaza, with our watches showing 6:30 p.m., our gait spontaneously quickened and our steps lengthened.

It must have been quite a sight - a few hundred men in black suits rushing down the sidewalks of Rome, dodging old ladies and their dogs, as shopkeepers and customers came out to see what was going on.

As we turned the corner around the Sant’ Uffizio, we could see the colonnade of St Peter’s Square… and the square was already full of people. It was about 45 minutes past the hour, less than an hour since the white smoke, and the square was already packed!

We headed for the entrances on the south side of the square. As soon as we crossed into the square we were stopped by the crowd. From there we could see the giant TV screen that was focused on the balcony, but we couldn’t see the balcony. I got as far as seeing the balcony just to the right of where the Pope would come out. Now if I had wanted to see this on TV, I would have stayed at home. No, I had to get closer.

Just then the curtains opened and the cardinal proto-deacon, Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, came out and looked at the crowd. Applauses and screams filled the place. Not even 10 minutes had passed since we arrived. As soon as the cardinal began to speak everything turns dead quiet.

“Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum…,” thunderous applause and screams interrupted him.

“…habemus Papam!”

Then it got really loud and everyone was ecstatic. But who was it?

He continued, “Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,” and then painfully repeated the last word, “Dominum Josephum,” pausing again.

Here it comes, “Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger.” If it was loud before, you can’t imagine what was going on now. I’ve been to big football games and World Series matches and it doesn’t compare to the excitement that could be felt here. This was supernatural!

Cardinal Medina finished his job and answers the last question that remained: “qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI.”

These events are unforgettable. I thank God for the chance to be present and to witness these events as a future priest. Due to our love for the pope, regardless of who it is, this moment will be with me for the rest of my life. Christ has again provided another great man and holy shepherd to guide his Church!

- Br Juan José Hernández is a seminarian in Rome, who was present in Rome on that memorable April 19th last year.



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