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Abroad students flock to St. Peter’s

Ricky McRoskey | Thursday, April 21, 2005

ROME – As the slow, steady cheers of “Benedetto” resounded throughout St. Peter’s square, Notre Dame students had the special opportunity to witness history when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ascended to the papacy Tuesday evening in Rome. There, at 5:50 p.m., white smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel chimney and all of Rome – and the world, for that matter – turned its gaze toward the Vatican to hear the first words of Pope Benedict XVI.

Many students were there for the first papal inauguration in 26 years, though the sudden nature of the announcement sent many of them running toward St. Peter’s from all different parts of Rome.

For some, the announcement came during the middle of classes, prompting entire classrooms to empty at once. For others, the news hit while at home, or in computer clusters or on the streets. Wherever Notre Dame students were, however, they ran.

The scene was sheer mayhem as thousands of pedestrians herded towards St. Peter’s, oblivious to cars, bikes, traffic lights or fellow runners.

Upon finally arriving in St. Peter’s Square, thousands stood in anticipation for almost an hour, waiting for the chance to see the new pope.

Junior Erin Kruse described the mood among the crowd as “incredible.”

“Being able to be there with other Notre Dame students, seeing everything, with the crowd going wild and the constant cheers, was unbelievable,” she said.

While awaiting the new pope’s appearance, cheers of “Viva il papa” reflected the spirit of the event. The excitement was almost palpable.

“When I got there it was right when they were closing off parts of the square and it was getting pretty crowded,” junior Caroline Murray said. “But once I got in, it was great to see the anticipation everywhere, especially how quickly the crowd quieted when the pope finally came.”

And come he did. At just before 7 p.m., the announcement came for the world to hear: habemus papam – “we have a pope.”

Within minutes, Pope Benedict XVI emerged amidst great applause and cheering and proceeded to thank the crowd and offer his papal blessing.

“Standing there in St. Peter’s for the pope’s first blessing was a real honor,” junior Pete Murphy said. “To have had this opportunity is unforgettable.”

Most in the crowd were very familiar with the chosen pope, as Cardinal Rat-zinger – the dean of the College of Cardinals – had been visible in the events surrounding the late Pope John Paul II’s funeral. Junior Matt Stefanski said he believed the cardinals made a fitting choice.

“They chose the right guy,” he said. “I knew going into it that whoever was supposed to lead the Church would be chosen to lead the Church. It’s been unbelievable to witness this all.”