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2nd April 2005, 9:37pm

05/04/2005: Vatican

The Sistine Chapel’s chimney, after a little uncertainty, seems to indicate clearly that the Pope has been elected: the smoke is white. It is 6:18pm on the 16th October 1978.
Crowds head towards Saint Peter’s Square. It is curiosity that urges the people to cross the symbolic border with Italy: the desire to see the new Pope.
At 6:45pm, applause follows cries of joy after Cardinal Pericle Felici pronounces the famous formula: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habemus Papam.
But it is concern and surprise that can be read all the faces when the Cardinal says: “Dominum dominum Karolum, Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, Cardinalem Wojtyla.
The most obvious thing was that he was not Italian, but also hardly anybody knew him.
But when he appeared in person a few minutes later on the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica and announced to the crowd Sia lodato Gesù Cristo (Praised be Jesus Christ!) followed by that statement that showed his desire for inculturation “I do not know if I will be able to express myself well in your…in our Italian language. If I make a mistake, correct me!”, all doubts disappeared and the faithful of his diocese returned to their homes visibly content.

Since then 9,664 days have passed: it is now the 2nd April 2005. The flow of people towards Saint Peter’s Square is far larger than then. Their faces are serene, but also concerned. They walk slowly; there is less noise. It is not curiosity that is urging the people to come but affection. The person to whom they wish to show their closeness in spirit is no longer an unknown; even if for many of them he is not the Father whom they love and who has given direction to their life, they know that a great man who has played a decisive role in the building of human history is living his last few hours of life.
And he, who had blessed the faithful on that 16th October so many years before after having expressed his yes to the request of the Cardinals, now repeats nearly the same “rite”. He knows that in the square the faithful have gathered, especially young people, who are praying for him and he tries to bless them. Then once more he expresses his YES and gives himself totally into his Father’s hands: it is the last AMEN of his life. He leaves us to enter the Kingdom of life that will last forever.

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