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Praying for the new pope and the world Print
Guest column
Written by Gabi Lopez-Betanzos, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013 -- 12:00 AM
Seminarian Gabriel Lopez-Betanzos in Rome is pictured with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. (Contributed photo)

Editor’s note: This is the third of a series of reflections on recent events happening at the Vatican by Diocese of Madison seminarians studying in Rome.

It was a cool, rainy evening in Rome. I stood in St. Peter’s Square with a group of seminarians and student priests from the North American College. Along with thousands of others from all over the world we awaited the smoke from the little chimney above the Sistine Chapel.

Then, without warning, smoke started coming out of the chimney! At first it appeared dark, but then it was clearly not the deep black smoke we had seen earlier. We have a new pope! As the smoke continued to flow from the chimney and the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica began to ring we made our way forward through the crowd. We reached a position centered in front of the now-famous balcony not far from the front of the crowd and waited anxiously to see the new pope.

Finally the new pope emerged and gave a brief address.

One of the first things Pope Francis did was lead us in prayer for his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It was a great gesture of honor and respect toward Benedict.

Pope Francis also asked us to “do him a favor” and pray for him. Then he bowed his head for a moment and the crowd fell silent. Even though I was surrounded by untold thousands of people, it was so quiet that I could hear the water flowing from a fountain several hundred feet away. It was truly a prayerful moment.

At the conclusion of his address, Pope Francis withdrew behind the curtain as simply as he had emerged and it was all over. I made my way back to the North American College. Shortly after my arrival I heard the bells of our chapel ringing. At the sound of the bells, the entire seminary community gathered in the main chapel to pray for the new pope.

As I prayed for the pope I started thinking of his endless responsibilities and of the enormous burden he has accepted. And then I realized that when we pray for the pope, we pray for all those he serves. In other words, when we pray for the pope, we pray for the world.

Gabriel Lopez-Betanzos is a second year theology student studying at the North American College in Rome.