Last night I was blown away to see how jammed the piazza was, even in the cold drizzle that had been falling on and off throughout the day. There were easily 20-30 thousand people there, all craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the world's most famous chimney stack. Lucky for us, we had a stellar view of both the roof of the Cappella Sistina and the jumbotron screen, where a camera was trained on a (thankfully) lighted stove pipe.
As the first wisps of smoke started to emerge from the chimney, the crowds shifted and I couldn't see the screen for about 10 seconds. But I didn't need to; the universal 'oohhhhh nooooo's' were enough to tell me that a new Papa wasn't in the cards - or on the ballots, rather - for last night.
It was such an incredible energy, to be surrounded by all these happy, hopeful people, all drawn either by curiosity, faith, the lure of celebrity, or maybe a mixture of the three. There aren't too many watershed historical moments which are scheduled and predictable, you know. The fact that we have a printed timetable for when the smoke will make its appearance is equal parts ridiculous and awesome.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the Conclave schedule, here is a brief sketch of smoking times:
- Morning session and first vote: around 10 am. (Note: smoke will only appear if a new Pope has been elected. If the morning session fails to produce a 2/3rds majority, nothing is burned.)
- Seconds vote: around 12:00 noon. At this point there will DEFINITELY be smoke, either black or white, as they will burn the ballots from both morning sessions at this point, adding the necessary chemicals to produce either black or white smoke. Black smoke, no pope; white smoke, new pope.
- Afternoon session and first vote: around 4:00 pm, producing smoke around 5:30 pm IF a new pope is elected.
- Final evening session: around 7:30 pm, producing smoke either way, as again, ballots from both afternoon sessions will be burned at this time.
Jury's still out on whether we'll be making 4 treks to and fro today, but my money is on 'most likely,' because we're only a 20 minute walk, and let's be honest, it's a great cardio workout to push a double stroller loaded down with booze and sippy cups.
Tune into my facebook page for breaking, grainy cell-phone pictures and pithy, thoughtful commentary as always. Or maybe just grainy cell phone pics.
Come on, Papa!