Wednesday, March 13, 2013

First Chimney-Watch

First ballot: black smoke
By Hilary White

ROME, March 12, 2013 ( – Tonight was my first time. Nearly everyone I know in Rome has been in the Piazza for at least one papal election, so even though we knew there would be no white smoke tonight, it was an exciting moment.

As my friend and I were heading down Gregorio VII and past the Paul VI Audience Hall, I was calculating how long it would take me, at a dead run, to get from the office to the Piazza. I plan on being there for every ballot, but on the off chance that the white smoke appears while I’m working on something else, I wanted to know that I could make it down there in time. I figured I could do it in about six or seven minutes.

As we approached the Colonnade, it was clear that a lot of people were heading down to be a part of history. And everyone was walking a lot faster than Romans usually do.

When we got there, though, it took a moment to take in the size of the crowd. I’m not much good at estimating these things, but it was clear that at least ten thousand had come down, in a pretty unpleasantly cold drizzle. We all knew it wouldn’t be tonight, but no one wanted to leave until we’d seen it ourselves. My friend, who had been there on the great day in 2005, said it isn’t the sort of thing you ever forget.

Posters in the Borgo, close to the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s apartment, by the Commune (municipality) of Rome: a fond farewell to a beloved pope.

The Vatican’s busy media centre for the 5000+ accredited journalists.

More than I would have thought for the first ballot.

The loggia, all ready to go.

The Carabinieri, looking much more grumpy than usual.

Journalists thick upon the ground.

Lots and lots of nuns.

Young and old.

No pope tonight.

First ballot tomorrow morning, with a possible Chimney-Watch by 10:30 am.

Rorate Caeli has put up this handy schedule, so if you're here and don't want to camp out in the Piazza, you can know when it's safe to go get a pizza and a coffee.


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