It started very early Monday morning, Feb. 11th, with a two-word email from a friend in London: “Another conclave!!!!!”
I was stunned–had Pope Benedict died? Then almost simultaneously the bulletin popped up on my computer: ”The Pope to resign.”
It was, to say the least, shocking. And in less than 24 hours I was back in Vatican City where I spent the better part of five weeks in 2005 for the last days of Pope John Paul II, his funeral, and the election of Joseph Ratzinger as the new leader of the Catholic Church. There is so much to remember, including the intense emotion of millions of people who poured into Rome from all over the world. The debates over the future of the church and the policies rejected by American Catholics, from birth control to married priests. But the conclave itself was so mysterious, so filled with anticipation. And there was the unexpected stress of smoke signals. Frankly, none of us gathered (it was my first conclave; for at least one of my guest experts, it was his third) could tell whether the supposedly tell-tale smoke was black (no pope) or white (a new Pope!!!). It took confirmation from the Vatican and the tolling of bells to be sure there was a new Pope. With the history of two millennia wrapped up in that meeting in the Sistine Chapel, and the procedures we used today established in 1274 – the sense of history was omnipresent. And with more than a billion Catholics worldwide, the possibility of change was the constant topic of conversation then, as it is now. Another chapter is waiting to be written.
“Flashback Friday” is a meander down memory lane of stories I’ve covered over the years and that may just spark some memories of your own. My team has worked hard scouring our archives and we hope you like them. Tweet me at @jansingco and let us know what you think!