We have a Pope!
Fr Piotr Zaborski
After the election of a new pope there is the moment when believers, running towards the square in front of the Vatican Basilica, keep greeting one another: 'We have a Pope' before they know who he is. This happens before the solemn announcement of the result of the election and the name of the new pope: 'Habemus Papam...'. They are running because they want to know his nationality and name; they want to have his blessing and hear the blessing Urbi et Orbi, which the new Pope gives.
We have a Pope!
When the white smoke billowed out from a stovepipe on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at 5.50 p.m. there were various reactions in St Peter's square: shouts of joy and disbelief because just several hours before, 12 minutes before noon, we had seen smoke in the grey Roman sky, which had seemed to be white for over a minute, and then it was evident it was black. No wonder many people in disbelief waited for the bells, which seemed to be delayed. When the bells began ringing nobody had doubts. After the fourth vote the cardinals elected a new Peter. We have a Pope!
Thousands of people began swarming into the square to join those who had already gathered in St Peter's square. The crowded streets around the Vatican pointed towards one target: the balcony of blessing from which the solemn 'Habemus Papam' would be announced. The people were deeply moved. Only the flags from various countries, which were fluttering over the heads, seemed to be calm. When the Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez appeared on the balcony he addressed the crowds in five languages and then he said the well-known formula: 'Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum, habemus Papam...' There was an exceptional enthusiasm in the cheering crowds. The people were clapping their hands and chanting 'Benedetto, Benedetto' - the gathered people accepted the new Pope with joy.
One need to have been there to see how in a very short time the enormous St Peter's square became too small to embrace all those who wanted to see and greet the new Pope. Too small for the Romans who came here to see their new Pope. And there were not only the Romans. The first reactions I heard were, 'I think John Paul II is glad', somebody said. 'We are very happy', someone else cried. Another man reminded of the book that was laid on John Paul II's coffin. It was a prophetic sign when the wind blew and shut the book. 'It will be a continuation of what Karol Wojtyla did and wanted for the Church', a middle aged man cried with joy. One thing is certain - the Romans who had gathered in St Peter's accepted Benedict XVI as their own Pope from the very first moment. The youth quickly found their own rhythm to chant the name of the new Pope - Benedetto (the Italian form of Benedict) and made an appointment with him in Cologne. 'Viva il Papa!', they shouted. One woman, not counting that she could succeed to reach the square, carried a small television set so that she could see the face of the new Pope. The young people, but not only them, sent SMSes to their families, friends and acquaintances. Thus we could be witnesses of the history transmitted through mobile phones. And the whole world could participate in the events through radio and television broadcasts.
Although people, gathered in St Peter's, spoke many languages, one could understand the meaning of the sentences, which were not only spoken but shouted as well. All people spoke about the Pope at that place and at that moment. Perhaps the kids who were also in the square did not understand what was going on but they also participated in the event - the announcement of the new Pope, the first pope in the third millennium. Their parents were sure that they would remind their children of that event some time in the future.
Long live the Pope!
These words, which were uttered in Polish in St Peter's square, eleven days after the funeral of John Paul II - Polish Pope - had a special meaning. They confirmed that the Poles were attached to the Successor of St Peter whom they had seen in Karol Wojtyla and now they saw in Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict XVI. One of the priests said to the believers around him that it was Cardinal Ratzinger whom John Paul II called a trusty friend.
Right after the announcement of the election a group of Polish pilgrims identified Benedict XVI to be the cardinal who had presided over the funeral Mass of John Paul II and who had given the homily. Many people, looking at the papal window, recollected the words of the Cardinal who had said, 'the late Pope, great and holy, is standing today at the window of the Father's house, he sees us and blesses us'. And today the same Cardinal is standing as the Pope in order to bless us, too.
In the evening some people were walking in front of the papal window and looking up from time to time. But the new Pope Benedict XVI did not stay in the papal apartments. He spent the night at St Martha's House where he had dinner with the cardinals who had participated in the conclave and then he went to bed in the room he had left in the morning as a cardinal. Did he fall asleep that night...?