One year ago this evening I was waiting in a cold and wet St. Peter’s Square with thousands of other people to see if a Pope would be elected. And our waiting paid off, because indeed, after two previous “black smokes” from the Sistine Chapel chimney, the Cardinals elected a new Pope and we witnessed the white smoke billow forth.
Here was what I saw when I had been down there the previous evening:
I was standing in about the same spot (sort of to the left of the obelisk in the Square) that second evening – March 13, 2013 – when the white smoke emerged. Immediately the crowd roared and everyone started pressing towards the Basilica, so that we could all see the new Pope at as close a range as possible.
Here I am in my new position after joining in the stampede, and you can see the white smoke there in the upper-right still coming from the Sistine chimney:
Then began the long wait: the white smoke indicated that after a successful vote the ballots were burned, but in the meantime the new Pope would have to vest in his new outfit, the Cardinals would have to pay him homage, he would then have to go pray in the Pauline Chapel (located near the Sistine Chapel), then he could make his way to the balcony of St. Peter’s to greet the crowds. So we looked at this for quite a while:
Finally after what seemed like an awful long time – I don’t remember exactly now, but I guess it was about an hour – the men opened the doors and began to prepare the balcony for the new Pope, letting down the banner and so forth.
Then Cardinal Tauran came out to announce the new Pope: Habemus papam. Most of what I’ve just said you all know already, because you were watching it on television and so forth. But perhaps you don’t know that when Cardinal Tauran announced the Pope’s name, I would say that most people in the crowd did not know who it was. Bergoglio! Bergoglio who? I knew who he was, because I remembered from the 2005 election that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Buenos Aires had been a major contender. But a lot of people in the Square – and throughout the world – never imagined that he would be announced as new Pope on March 13, 2013. And so his name was far from their minds.
So in the crowd there was some chatter as folks ascertained who exactly the new guy was. And then finally, he came out on the balcony:
We all remember well the Pope’s greeting: Buonasera – Good evening! The last thing that Pope Benedict XVI had said at Castel Gandolfo, in his final appearance before the end of the papacy, was “Good night! Thank you all!”. The first thing that Pope Francis said, then, was “Brothers and Sisters: Good evening!”.
After greeting the enthusiastic crowd and asking us all to pray for God’s blessing upon him, Pope Francis then gave his blessing to all. Finally, he announced that the next day he would go to pray to the Blessed Mother – and word quickly got out that he would be going to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the celebrated image of the Madonna Salus Populi Romani.
On this one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate, let us also pray to the Blessed Mother for him, that she may obtain for him every heavenly grace that he needs to lead the Church wisely and prudently through the difficult times in which we live; that he may enjoy good health and long life; and finally, that he may be holy and inspire in all of us a desire for holiness as well.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help, or sought thy intercession
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my mother!
To thee do I come, before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful.
O mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer me.