12 March 2013
The first ballot. . . Black Smoke!
So I took the bus down to St. Peter's Square. Some sisters from the Community of the Lamb (a wonderful group of sisters) were at the bus stop, and I rode down with them. We joined up with some American seminarians when we switched buses.
There were lots of people flowing into the square, and the journalists were like vultures descending on the crowds. The Piazza was much fuller than it normally is on a Tues. at 7:00pm, but it wasn't packed. I think most people figured the Pope would not be elected tonight.
A middle-aged Italian woman came up to ask to talk. The Italians rarely have trouble talking with strangers. She said a few interesting things. I asked if she wanted an Italian Pope. Her response: "Basta!" (Enough!) There really is a sentiment among the Italians that their country is broken. Although not so much in the press, the current political situation in Italy is in absolute turmoil with no clear party ready to run the government. There is almost a despair among the Italians about their own future, and their inability to be trusted with the workings of the Vatican. They see their political leaders as corrupt, untrustworthy, and without a concern for the common good of the people. So, when I asked her who she wanted, she emphastically said an American--"Il Cappuccino " (the Capuchin). She wanted Cardinal O'Malley. There remains a great love for the Italians of the Franciscans, especially because of St. Padre Pio, the 20th century priest and mystic. There is also a sense of the humility and simpleness of the Capuchins, especially O'Malley, that the Italians find very attractive. It didn't hurt that there was apparently a picture in the Italian Press of Cardinal O'Malley giving bread to the poor.
She also said that her pastor was not in favor of an American Pope. Why? Because of the danger of the CIA! As is often said, the Italians have never heard a conspiracy theory that they're not willing to believe. The juicer the gossip, the more they want to hear!
She was also Roman and a long-time Papal watcher. She said that they never elect in the morning, always in the afternoon. So, if the past is any guide, don't expect white smoke in the morning.
The smoke came much later than was expected. Fr. Lombardi had thought that it would come around 7:00pm. It didn't come until about 7:40pm. I'm not sure if we should expect the same for the remaining days, or whether this was just a first day glitch.
Anyway, here are the pictures of the smoke and the smokestack. There are also a few of the Loggia, prepared for the new Pope's entrance, and a few of the Piazza.