Victor Val Mas

Is this man the Pope? Confusion at St Peter’s Square

White smoke billows from the roof of the Sistine chapel. Immediately, Romans from all over the city flock to St Peter’s Square in an adrenalin rushed sprint. Their objective is to see the announcement of the new pope. From the train station nearest to the basilica, passengers jump out of trains and move in swarms towards the Vatican. In a few frenetic minutes, all the roads within the vicinity of the Vatican turn into rivers of humans all dashing in one direction. People try to catch their breath as they run towards the finish line, St Peters Square. At the square, a crowd gathers to observe the balcony and the red curtains behind it. From here the new pope will emerge. Every once in a while, behind the red curtains, the crowd stirs and the atmosphere tenses as a faint shadow can be seen. The curtains are drawn and a man dressed in red and white emerges. He steps out into the balcony and speaks to the crowd. Silence, suspense, and then shock. This man pronounces a phrase in Latin, “Habemus Papam”. The square erupts in applause and cheers. Few in the crow managed to understand the rest, but some catch a few words. "What did he say , Bergoglio?" someone muttered. Then the man fades into the basilica once again. Silence. Has the pope been overcome with emotion? Has he decided to not accept? The red curtains are drawn once again.

Victor Val Mas Live broadcasts in thousands of languages allowed viewers from all over the world to watch this event unfold live on Television. Vatican analysts and commentators were waiting on set to give their share of opinion on the new pope. Among the thousands standing in St Peter’s Square, there I stood, and like the ninety-nine percent we stood in utter confusion. Wireless coverage was down and nobody could Google who Bergogolio was. We all stood in aw, too overtaken by the situation. St Peter’s Square, designed by Michelangelo was made to be fit for the church. Its oval shape acts like a magnifying glass, making the basilica seem even bigger than it already is. But on this night, the basilica looked even more majestic. What Michelangelo had not planned was that the square would be lit by thousands of smartphones, cameras, iPhones and ipads. Compared to the images from 8 years ago, this was the first time a sea of lights lit up before the basilica. Thousands of Christians lined the square and spilled out onto Via della Conciliazione. Some tried ill-fatedly to tweet an image of the man standing on the balcony. "New Pope” they tweeted. These messages stayed on their phones until being uploaded automatically minutes later, once the overworked servers managed to catch up. Most people were busy frantically calling relatives and friends to try to find out who this Bergogolio was and what had happened. This was of course to no use as the networks were still collapsed. In the next ten minutes rumors started spreading around the square. An Argentinian! Someone said. That seemed to satisfy many as they once again resumed trying to connect unsuccessfully via their phones to the world. Finally the curtains were drawn the doors opened once again. People madly dashed for their cameras; those more experienced and better jugglers managed to record the moment on not one but two devices. St Peter’s Square was armed and ready for whatever emerged from behind the curtains. The thousands gathered at St Peters watched through screens of all types, as for the second time on the same night, a man stepped onto the balcony. This time it was the real Pope. Stress and frantic pulses at the touchscreens as hundreds tried to erase old tweets and replace them with new ones. Only on this night would the Vatican’s master of ceremonies be mistaken for the pope by the millions who stood there.