Seminarian Joseph Previtali was in St. Peter's Square when Pope Benedict XVI was introduced on April 19, 2005. Here is what he saw and experienced:
Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum - habemus papam! Eminentissimum et reverendissimum Dominum Josephum, Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger. Qui accipit nomen Benedictus XVI!
Indeed, it is a great joy to be Catholic today, as we receive yet another blessing from Our Father in Heaven: Pope Benedict XVI. I just got back from St. Peter's, and I want to share with you my beautiful ecclesial experience.
I went down to St. Peter's Square at around 5:30 pm and joined my brother NAC seminarians. A few of the guys had brought guitars and drums, and we began to sing praise-and-worship songs. During our time of prayer, many of the others in the Square came over and joined us. It was an awesome experience to praise the Lord in song with so many fellow Catholics, all of us imploring Him to send us another holy pope.
At around 6:00, as we were ending a song, the smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel chimney. At first, it was black and we were disappointed. But then we realized that they must have reached a consensus because of the early burning of the ballots. At about the same time, the smoke turned white. Little by little the anticipation increased as white smoke came pouring out. We began cheering, and waited for the conclusive sign that we were truly seeing white smoke: the ringing of the bells.
After about five minutes (at least it seemed that long), the crowd erupted into a huge roar as the bells began to move. The explosion of emotion was much like what one would experience during an exciting moment at a sporting event. Needless to say, the anticipation heightened.
We waited for 25 more minutes, singing praise to God for the new Pope and talking about who it might be. Of course, everyone now says they knew it was Cardinal Ratzinger all along. I, for one, have never been happier to be wrong.
When the gentiluomini came out onto the center balcony of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica to close the curtains, the crowd roared in delightful anticipation. Onto the balcony emerged Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, the Cardinal Proto-Deacon. He greeted his "dear brothers and sisters" in five languages, and then declared the solemn announcement of the new Bishop of Rome.
When he said "Dominum Josephum", we began to jump around like we were sitting in the Kennel Club section at a Gonzaga basketball game. And when the name "Ratzinger" was pronounced, there was pandemonium the likes of which I have never seen.
We waited with now-relieved anticipation for the procession of the new Pope Benedict XVI onto the balcony to greet the crowd. The Church had gotten her man, and we were ready to give him what has now become a Pope's welcome. And then he came.
For most of us, it was the first time we had seen anyone besides John Paul II in the Pope's white zucchetto. There was the familiar German face of Joseph Ratzinger, a humble servant of the Lord, as he rightly called himself in his address. As he did many times as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict got right to the point: "After the great Pope John Paul II..." The crowd roared in approval of this noble salutation for our dear departed JPII.
Benedict then assured us that he has entrusted himself to the Lord and to His Mother and to the prayers of the Christian faithful. There was a serene humility about him. I imagine that he will waste no time in beginning his Petrine Ministry. His choice of St. Benedict's name no doubt indicates something of the direction of his pontificate. The choice of the name of the patron saint of Europe is certainly appropriate during this time of the secularization and de-Christianization of European society. Additionally, St. Benedict's great promotion of and love for the dignified celebration of the Sacred Liturgy will not go unheeded by our new Holy Father.
After his brief address, our new Pope intoned the Urbi et Orbi Blessing. As we knelt before him and made the sign of the cross, many were moved to tears. The joyous celebration of this gift from God to His Church gives us the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the richness of our Catholic faith. What an even more precious gift is that faith!
Pope Benedict XVI is eating supper tonight with the cardinals in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he will spend the night. He will celebrate Mass with them tomorrow morning at 9:00 am in the Sistine Chapel. Let us pray for him as he begins his time as the 264th Successor of Peter. May the Blessed Virgin Mary and her faithful son Pope John Paul II, intercede for him before the throne of God, that he may take up this cross and follow the Lord in complete fidelity and with peace and joy.
Your brother in Christ,
Joe is now Fr. Joseph Previtali of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and is Parochial Vicar at St. Gabriel parish.