Snapshots that celebrate a decade: how the election of Francis was experienced in Rome

The cardinals at the mass before the Concalvee in which the successor to Benedict XVI was chosen (Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images) (Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis/)

[”Francisco. Diez años del papa latinoamericano” puede descargarse gratis en BajaLibros clickeando acá]

Rome. It is 19:07 on March 13, 2013, the concentration of people supports the rain and the classic cool weather at this time of year in Italy. Even so, the thousands who attentively await the election of the new Pontiff observe with joy -and suspense- the column of white smoke that rises from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. The white smoke confirms that there is a new dad

Via della Conciliazione bursts with people and flashes that intermingle with the lights of patrol cars that guard the area in that almost imperceptible -but real- limit that divides the Vatican State from the Italian Republic. In all that tide of people, between umbrellas and hoods, flags of different nations appear. Until a few hours before, the favorite for Pedro’s successor was angelo scola, the Italian then Archbishop of Milan. But the feeling was diluted with the black smokes that showed that there was no quorum for the purposes.

A journalist from the Italian television channel La7 talks with her colleagues from TV2000, the channel of the Italian Episcopal Conference, “if there were so many black smokers, it is clear that Scola did not have 40 guaranteed voters in the end.”

On Via de Porta Angelica, the street next to the colonnaded St. Peter’s Square, there is still the car that sells pizzas and chocolates. In 2013 they still make coffee and, leaning on a shelf, is Ignacio Calvo Ferrer, a Spaniard who has lived in Italy since 1990. Devout, the man from Madrid has been turning between Borgo Pio and Piazza del Risorgimento since this morning, a bit to calm the cold and another to lower anxiety. While he drinks his coffee, he gives a few minutes to a journalist from Il Fatto Quotidiano. He has his favorite – he says – but he decides not to name it, “it is a decision of the Holy Spirit”.

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White smoke emerges from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, on the day of his proclamation as pope (AP)
White smoke emerges from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, on the day of his proclamation as pope (AP) (Associated Press /)

In front of the Portone di Bronzo there is a group of Latin Americans, the majority are Argentines but others are Paraguayans and Mexicans. They are Orionites, they came to Rome for a scheduled retreat and they stayed to be present during the days of the Conclave. After so much spending the day, they ran out of topics of conversation, now all that remains is to watch the people, which is the most hypnotic spectacle. There is no hot water left in the thermos and one of them decides to go out in search. He probably goes to the nearest cart, where Ignacio is still standing.

RAI interrupts its programming to put on the screen of all Italy the moments before the announcement of the new Pontiff. It is 7:40 p.m. and on television they detect that the curtains on the balcony of the Basilica of Saint Peter. The French cardinal is about to come out Jean Louis Tauran. The media stop broadcasting and the Plaza becomes an explosion. The journalists are only attentive to the balcony and enhance their sense of hearing to focus on the speakers that will reproduce the cardinal’s voice. The group of Orionites prays, the one who went in search of water quickly returns with an empty thermos and one of them can’t help but stare at the crowd.

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VATICAN CITY, VATICAN – MARCH 13: Newly elected Pope Francis I waves to the waiting crowd from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) (Christopher Furlong/)

The last name they announce is Italian, yes, but it is not familiar to the majority of the Italians present and the noise automatically turns for a second into a questioning silence. Who is the new pope.

Pronouncing “Bergoglio” does not complicate phonetics for locals, quite the contrary. The journalists know that it is the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and before the announcement of the name Francisco they interrupt the chronicle to make reference. Those from TV2000 turned to his colleague who was counting Scola’s votes and told him: “the Argentine had already been close in 2005 ″.

The Spaniard clutches his head, touches his beret and cannot contain his emotion. You know who Bergoglio is, you know South America a lot. He does not reveal if he was his favorite but, after a few minutes, tearfully declares that “after eight centuries, no one had had the courage to be called Francisco, you have to have courage, he will undoubtedly have it”

A group of Brazilian nuns approaches those of the community of don orione and they all hug each other. It would be inevitable, in another context, not to relate it to football. But this is not the case, there is something else that transforms it into a divine and non-earthly moment. “He is ours, he chose one of ours”, and in that exclamation we understand who they mean.

The newly named Pope Francis greets parishioners from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica
The recently named Pope Francis greets the parishioners from the central balcony of the Basilica of Saint Peter (AP/)

Francisco goes out on the balcony. Mgr William Karcherthe Argentine who has been serving in the Vatican Ceremonial since John Paul II at the moment, he holds the microphone for him and cannot contain his happiness. Bergoglio pronounces the first words of him as Vicar of Christ, he sends from the initial moment signals of reform and closeness, of a spirit totally different from that of his predecessor.

Juan Pablo Cafiero, the then Argentine ambassador to the Holy See, is in the audience in San Pedro. He was the head of mission for almost six years, his office at that time was based on via Banco di Santo Spirito a few meters from Castel Sant’Angelo. He was among the few who carried an Argentine flag on March 13. While the Senate of the Nation interrupted the session to announce the election of Bergoglio, the offices of Esmeralda street in Buenos Aires made international calls. The ambassador’s telephone did not stop making noise, like the Plaza, like the Roman streets, like the media, like the faithful, like all of Francisco’s movements in these ten years.

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