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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Patrick Novecosky | author
Apr 01, 2013
Filed under Columns

A bird’s eye view of history

Legatus magazine editor Patrick Novecosky was in Rome for the election of Pope Francis …

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

Having a bird’s eye view on history is not all it’s cracked up to be. When white smoke billowed forth from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney on March 13, I was atop the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

Nearly 150,000 people in the square below had waited hours in the rain and 40-degree weather in anticipation of the conclave’s decision. After 30 minutes of picture-taking, I had a sense that history was about to unfold. That was confirmed when I looked at my rain-spattered watch. The Vatican had posted times for the smoke-watchers to fix their gaze upon the chimney. The smoke was supposed to have risen at 7 pm. All of the previous burnings had been early. It was 7:04 pm. Something was up.

Being on top of the colonnade put me at a serious disadvantage over television viewers who could see multiple angles (including the chimney) and those in the square who had full view of large video screens. So when the crowd burst out in shouts of joy and applause a few minutes later, I knew history had been made! Seconds later, the basilica’s bells began to ring — one of them just 40 feet above me.

Then, about 75 minutes after the white smoke, red-clad cardinals began coming out onto the balconies beside the center loggia where the new pope would be introduced. The doors of the loggia at the center of the basilica opened. The crowd exploded! Even the often jaded media folks around me were smiling.

“Habemus papem!” said French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. Then the Pope appeared! I had a great view — better than most — but I was still 80 yards away.

As soon as he spoke, I knew our new Holy Father was a man of great humility. You could hear it in his voice. And, I found out later, he also has a sense of humor. After he was selected, he told the cardinal electors, “My brothers, may God forgive you!”

The longtime archbishop of Buenos Aires is the son of middle-class Italian immigrants and is known as a humble man who rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina’s capital. He takes his name and inspiration from the humble saint from Assisi.

Francis has truly come to the Vatican! Viva il papa!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief. Watch for more reporting on Pope Francis in next month’s magazine. Click here for another article on the Pope’s election. Read Patrick’s blog at


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