21-March-2013 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Youth recount historic election of Pope Francis

As time drew closer to 7 p.m. on March 13, crowds of faithful filled in the rain-soaked piazza of St. Peter's Basilica as much as their umbrellas would allow them.

A seminarian studying at the North American College, Sean O'Brien, had skipped a class earlier that day just to watch the noon smoke, but had missed it because it came early.

Later that afternoon, "I was planning on going down to be there for the first ballot of the evening, but I was in the middle of laundry and was relying on the theory that the square wouldn't be so packed," he said.

Although his campus is just off St. Peter's Square, O'Brien said he was constantly checking his Twitter account so as not to miss any new developments.

"I felt similar to what fathers feel like when expecting a child," he said. "It was hard to get anything done because I didn't want to get busy doing something that would not allow me to either go down or hear about it."

Fortunately, he and his fellow seminarians were allowed to pray evening prayer early that evening to allow time to get to the piazza to watch the smoke.

Maria Cintorino from Christendom College, who had already been waiting in the rain for about two hours, said the crowd grew denser in anticipation of the smoke signal.

"As it was getting closer to seven," she said, "the square was becoming more and more crowded."

At 7:06 p.m. wisps of white smoke began to stream out of the chimney above the Sistine Chapel.

When the smoke first appeared, O'Brien said, it was difficult to tell what color it actually was.

As the crowd rushed forward with shouts of joy, it was apparent that the smoke was indeed white. The College of Cardinals had selected a new Pope and he had accepted.

"At first, I really didn't believe it," the seminarian said. "I had either convinced myself that it wouldn't be so soon, or that the reality of how exciting this really is did not yet strike me."

Maria Buckner, a student studying at University of Dallas' Rome campus, said she was in the square praying the third Glorious mystery of the Rosary - the Descent of the Holy Spirit - when she saw white smoke begin to billow out of the chimney.

"The shift in the mood of the drenched crowd was immediate," she said. "Everyone was surging forward, yelling and shouting good-naturedly."

"The bells started ringing and everyone in the square erupted with shouts," Cintorino said. "We were so thrilled and kept shouting, 'We have a Pope!'"

Other spectators said their first reaction was that of disbelief.

"I wasn't expecting white smoke," Matthew Speer of Christendom College said, "so when it came I kept waiting for it to turn black."

Cintorino said ever since Benedict XVI had resigned, "there was an empty feeling in St. Peter's."

Before she even knew who the new Holy Father was, however, she said just knowing there was a new Pope brought on "so much joy and excitement."

Shortly after the appearance of white smoke, rumors flew about who had been chosen.

"During our wait, we speculated. It was such a fast vote that it must have been one of the 'front runners,'" O'Brien said. "We thought perhaps (Cardinal Angelo) Scola or (Cardinal Marc) Ouellet."

Buckner said she found a classmate who began to talk with an Italian woman who "adamantly hoped" that the new Pope would be "American or Filipino."

"Any speculative information made its way through the crowd despite language barriers," she recounted.

Over an hour after the first appearance of white smoke, lights came on in the window of the Papal Balcony.

"The crowd was electric!" Speer said. "It trumped the atmosphere in Pittsburgh during the playoffs."

After what Cintorino called both the "longest and shortest wait I have ever experienced," Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran emerged and announced Cardinal Jorge Mario Borgoglio as Pope Francis.

"At that moment, there was actually some confusion and silence in the crowd," O'Brien recalled.

Many people had not even considered the possibility of him being elected.

By then, the rain had stopped and, unhindered by umbrellas, the crowd was able to draw closer as Pope Francis emerged on balcony to bless the faithful.

"I have never felt more excited in my entire life," Buckner said. "I shouted 'Habemus papam!' over and over."

When Pope Francis asked the crowd to first ask God to bless him, "the whole square was absolutely silent," Speer said. "Hundreds of thousands of people were gathered in the square and not even one sound could be heard."

Following what O'Brien called a period of "fervent prayer" in the crowd, the Pope blessed the faithful and bid them goodnight.

Although the whole address "was a blur to me," Buckner said she was struck by the "even more tangible" reality that "I am always a part of the body of Christ that is the Church."

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/Vatican.php?id=7292#ixzz2OHECtjz2

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