Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI

The Roman Catholic Church has a new pope. As an editor for a community newspaper in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, the selection of a new pope is a big event.

All the pages in today’s issue for Sun.Star Cebu were finished and we were just awaiting the results of the next round of voting in the conclave. I was reading Wikipedia’s entry on the Prophecy of the Popes when smoke started coming out of the Sistine Chapel chimney. I was sure it was white and fellow editor Carmel agreed with me. Everyone in the newsroom then started gathering in front of the TV sets.

The presentation of Pope Benedict XVI is the first done under the backdrop of a 24-hour worldwide news media and the Internet. All my life as a Catholic and later on as an inactive member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, John Paul II had been the only pope.

The process – starting with Pope John Paul II’s death, his funeral, the start of the conclave and Pope Benedict XVI’s presentation – is fascinating. The Liturgy of the Saints keeps ringing on my ears and I find myself humming it at times. (Is my old faith calling me back?) I’ve always been enamored of traditional ceremonies, especially those that hark back to medieval times. This is the reason why I’m so fascinated with Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum.

People in the Sun.Star Cebu central newsroom were watching the BBC and CNN feeds. We ran from one TV set to another depending on what was being aired. Both CNN and BBC were airing the same footage but CNN was airing it a second or two earlier.

When it was evident that what was coming out from the Sistine Chapel chimney was white smoke, the newsroom quickly shifted into action. Pages were re-assigned to make way for changes in Page 1, which would carry the announcement.

I was with copy chief Noel, news ed Carmel and managing ed Sol in front of the BBC monitor when newsroom assistant Titing, who was watching the CNN feed, cried out “ni-bagting na ang bell.” Everyone ran to the CNN tv set and indeed, the Vatican’s bells were ringing — a definite sign that a new pope had been elected.

We waited for minutes while speculating who the new pope would be. Will he be from the developing world? Will he bring changes to the church. A few minutes later, it was announced that the cardinals chose Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to be the 265th pope.

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