I do like a good Catholic boy!

16 Mar

I witnessed it all!

Conclave Day 1:

I woke up in an overall fantastic mood knowing that within the coming days we would have a new Pope and I am a 10 minute walk from the Vatican to witness it all! There was not a doubt in my mind that we were going to the Vatican for photojournalism class. When I left my apartment in the morning the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, so I obviously put on my fur vest and left without an umbrella or hooded jacket.. or jacket with sleeves for that much. Mother nature decided to slap me in the face as it started to torrentially downpour the minute we started walking to the Vatican. As we crossed into Vatican City it started to hail! So not my finest moment, but at least I didn’t SMELL like a wet dog..


Fellow Golden Eagle, Seamus, lacking rain gear too!

Fellow Golden Eagle, Seamus, lacking rain gear too!

It was only a few hours before the first vote and all 115 cardinals gathered for the last Vatican mass before the election. Large groups gathered around the big screens to watch, news teams scattered around the square to continue prepping for the big day, and I ran around trying to capture any early action that I could.


As we walked past the huge two-story news tent across the square (eyes peeled for Diane Sawyer) I had a sudden urge to flash the press. Don’t worry, I didn’t, but in my defense I was just trying to keep them all alert and awake for the big event!




Modern day conclave

Modern day conclave


It poured throughout the entire day which I took as a sign that today would not be the day. I went to buy a 2 Euro bottle of champagne just to be ready (Oh yeah, big spender), but when nightfall came and the rain hadn’t stopped I just crossed my fingers that the smoke would be black and I stayed inside. I didn’t take my eyes off the Live online “Smoke Cam” and around 8 PM when black smoke billowed from the chimney, which you could hardly see against the black sky, I was relieved. Many predictions pegged day 2 as “The Day”, so being my busiest day of the week I just hoped it would wait until after class.


Conclave Day 2:

Could this be the day?

I’m beginning to realize how detrimental not having an iPhone is to my sanity (explanation in future post). Without it I feel like I’m completely missing out on the world around me. Not having the breaking news updates straight from Twitter on my iPhone was actually making me panic.

The first vote happened just as I rolled out of bed. I was nervous that the smoke would be white because then Rome would have to witness “The Fro”/my early morning appearance.. not pretty. Luckily, for the people, it was black. Wednesdays I have class straight through until 7:15 which was cutting it close. Rumor had it that the new pope was likely to be elected between 5:30 and 7, so I was getting pretty anxious. I made every person I sat next to in class turn on the Live Smoke Cam and every time the bells rang we all freaked out!

And then finally.. 7:05 PM came around and faintly through the classroom windows I heard bells ringing like crazy. It took a few seconds until everyone heard it and started fidgeting to check social media and the Smoke Cam (LOL at the irony of being in a social media lecture). I turned to the girl next to me and we froze as the white smoke poured out of the chimney through her computer screen. We bolted out of that classroom and into the street where stampedes of people were running towards the Vatican! I felt like I was in a movie. With my purse, camera, and umbrella in hand I started sprinting with the rest of the crowd!! Surprisingly I didn’t loose my footing on the slick cobblestones. People were pouring out of alleyways, running in front of cars, and I’m pretty sure some people even parked their cars in the middle of the street and ditched them. That was the moment when it all became real.

As we entered the Vatican City walls all we could hear was “Il Papa Il Papa!!” We ran in through the left pillars of St. Peter’s Square and into the pit of umbrellas. Holding onto Allison’s back, we weaved and bobbed all the way to the front center. How we didn’t lose an eye along the way is a miracle. You could cut the excitement in the Square with a knife. Smiles were glued to everyone’s faces, including mine.

Here’s the crowd awaiting the new Pope!





People in the crowd were from all over. There were French flags waving, Brazilian flags, Latin and South Americans, Americans, obviously tons of enthusiastic Italians, and many more. Allison made the mistake of forgetting that most of the world has at least a basic knowledge of English, so she starts rambling on about how the Spanish speaking priests next to her are so hot, “Nothing worse than a hot priest, but nothing better.” 2 minutes later they all start speaking fluently in English. Awkward!

There was nothing but happiness in the air. Even when a giant 7 foot priest cut in front of a group of us blocking our view, all the Italians started joking with him and everyone was laughing. In America.. that wouldn’t fly.



The crowd was relatively quiet for the amount of people that were there. Just after 8 all of the lights inside flicked on and the crowd went nuts! He’s coming! Little children got on top of their parents shoulders and families grabbed on to each other in anticipation. When the doors under the red velvet drapes finally opened and the senior cardinal announced, “Habemus Papam” (We have a Pope) cheers filled the square! It immediately went silent as everyone was waiting to hear who it was (Al and I were banking on un Papa Nero). When it was announced that the new Pope was Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina you would have though the man in front of us had just won the lottery,

Watch here!

Il Papa Francesco is the first Jesuit pope. First from the Western hemisphere. First from the Southern hemisphere. First from South America. And the first Francesco!

The cardinals, all cloaked in red, rushed to the windows and surrounded the new Pope from both sides. The first words from his mouth were, “Fratelli e Sorelli, Buona Sera” (Brothers and sisters, good evening). I was picking up some of what he was saying, but it would have been nice to have a translator on hand. He asked everyone to take a moment to pray for him as he takes on this huge responsibility and position. He was so humble.. and an adorable little guy 😉

Quick clip of Pope Francesco

DSCN1350 DSCN1352 DSCN1360 DSCN1355

The sea of cell phones means modern day conclave

The sea of cell phones means a 21st century conclave

He only spoke for about 15 minutes, but the crowd could not have seemed happier with the decision. As we all pushed our way out I heard one man say, “Well there’s probably a few cardinals in there that can let out a sigh of relief.” News stations were everywhere and my tv broadcast juices were flowing! I brushed past ABC 7’s Alan Krashesky as he made his way out from the pit.

But if I wasn’t going to be interviewed, I definitely wasn’t leaving without finding someone from Good Morning America. From a distance I spotted the back of Josh Elliott and went in for the kill! He was elevated on the first level of the press tent, but when we yelled his name he turned around with a huge smile on his face, waved, and chatted with us for a little. The icing on top of the cake. He better remember this face when I apply at GMA! Josh! Gimme yo job!


Being a Catholic from a Jesuit University and witnessing this historical moment, as well as the weeks leading up to it, has been more than I could have ever imagined would happen during my semester abroad! I was at President Obama’s first inauguration in D.C. witnessing history for the United States, but this experience in Rome takes the cake!

I will never forget March 13, 2013. Viva Il Papa!


4 Responses to “I do like a good Catholic boy!”

  1. Maryellen Marisie March 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Thank you for sharing!!!! That was so awesome! So so excited for you!

  2. Michael spidale March 16, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Dear Marlo, GramaJean and me just read your spirited account of our new Papa!
    You will repeat your experience to your bambinos one day. I am so happy for you.
    Love you, your NaniJudy

  3. Michael spidale March 17, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    I do like a good catholic boy too! Do I have to go to Rome to get one..

  4. Michael spidale March 17, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    Uncle Michael???.oops that was me ,”Auntie Car” ,that posted that…sorry Michael Lol

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