Thursday, March 14, 2013

La fumata bianca.

This is the first of an anticipated two posts on the election of the new Supreme Pontiff, the second of which will hopefully come later today. The appearance of the white smoke yesterday evening (here in Toronto, it was midafternoon) did not surprise me, despite all of the speculation I'd been hearing recently about the possibility of a longer conclave. For the last several days, I had felt a sort of intuitive certainty that the new pope would be chosen at the final scrutiny on Wednesday; that premonition led me to organize my day in such a way that I would be home in the afternoon and able to watch live as the white smoke billowed forth from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

When smoke failed to appear promptly at seven o' clock (or two o' clock, Toronto time), I felt even more certain that my intuition was correct. It suddenly dawned on me: of course the white smoke will be delayed. I'm not a chemist, but I'm sure that the mixture of chemicals needed to produce white smoke is different from what is needed to produce black smoke. It probably would not have taken much time to get the black smoke going again, since the people in charge of producing it had already done so four times in the preceding twenty-four hours; by contrast, it probably took a bit longer to produce white smoke given that it was being done for the first (and only) time during the conclave. Such were the thoughts that were going through my head as I waited, for about five minutes as it turned out, for the smoke to issue forth from the chimney - at first an ambiguous grey, but then very definitely white.

The hour that followed reminded me very much of my experience eight years ago. I again experienced the odd feeling of knowing that a new pope had been elected but not knowing who he was. As I had at the time of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I also wondered what the man who had been elected was thinking and feeling in those heady minutes as he prepared to face the world for the first time as pontiff. Then all gave way to great surprise when I heard Cardinal Tauran pronounce the name Georgium Marium Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio, a surprise that still hasn't worn off. AMDG.


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