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3/29/2013 11:24:00 AM
Mount Angel greets 'Papa Francesco'
Catholic News Service
Pope Francis preaches during Chrism Mass at Vatican.
Catholic News Service
Pope Francis preaches during Chrism Mass at Vatican.
Jim Thompson

ST. BENEDICT — If you can't be in St. Peter’s Square when a new pope is introduced to the world, what place is second best?

Maybe Mount Angel Abbey.

When reports of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel were received March 13, the eight bells of the abbey's tower pealed. The plan was that everyone would hasten to the abbey's meeting hall to view the papal balcony on giant television screens.

The bells rang shortly after 11 a.m. Inside the hall, which normally serves as a gym, the excitement was evident. One seminarian took the role of cheerleader – “Viva il Papa!” The crowd responded exuberantly. Another raced around the room with the papal flag streaming out behind him shouting in joy.

The wait was dramatic. The screens showed St. Peter’s Square teeming with the people of Rome, anxious to see their new bishop. Uniformed guards and musicians entered in formation. The Vatican National Anthem was played. All eyes were on the window, where stirrings behind the sheer white curtains were seen. Again, a cry went up from the crowd in Damian Center – the Vatican flag flew around the room.

Many many could be seen praying fervently.

Seminarians were consulting various electronic devices. Another Viva, but not entirely successful: all were more intent on listening than cheering.

Then came the scene awaited by all the world, and the name – barely audible – that would mean so much to the future life of the Catholic Church, and to the men and women gathered in this gymnasium: Francesco. Pope Francis.

At that auspicious moment not all of the Mount Angel community were present. The monks had departed for noonday prayers. The Divine Office, which has been recited by this community continually since 1882 would not be interrupted, even by the election of a pope. However, afterward, the normal rule of silence in the refectory was dispensed. Electronic devices went to work and ecstatic conversation ensued.

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