White Smoke And Social Media

Our radio is permanently tuned into Absolute Radio, a popular, very mainstream station based in Central London. It is not a news station, and it definitely has no religious affiliations. But at around 20 past 6 yesterday evening, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and the DJ announced that there was white smoke coming from the chimney on the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

White smoke from the Vatican

I’m not Catholic, I’m not even religious, but I knew what  the white smoke meant and asked DD1 to have a look at the BBC news page while I finished putting dinner in the oven. There was already a red header confirming the white smoke that had been reported on the radio.

10 minutes later, when I got to my computer, my Facebook timeline was buzzing. Some of my friends are Catholics, so have a vested interest, but most aren’t.  People were just interested.I know I found it all weirdly fascinating.

The kids had watched it on Newsround the day before, when they were explaining about the black and white smoke and what it meant, so they were mildly interested too. Everyone thought it would take longer than a day. We’d had a discussion that morning about how the Cardinals had been ‘shut in’ the previous day and DD2  had been worried about what they would eat. I think she thought that no food would result in a faster decision!

DH, also devoid of religious affiliations, arrived home shortly after and switched BBC News on. It showed crowds of  people in St Peters Square, waving flags, cheering and listening to the bells ring.

40 minutes later we were still waiting for the new Pope to be named, although the Pope’s Twitter account, which had had all of Pope Benedict XV1’s tweets deleted when he resigned, had been reactivated. And 10 minutes later the new Pope was announced; Pope Francis I was the first pope from the Americas, and the first from outside Europe in over a thousand years.

A friend of mine googled his name, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as soon as it was announced and a Wikipedia entry came up immediately. This was seconds after it was announced; they must have had a page prepared for each of the candidates!

The new Pope came out onto the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica to address the crowd and while he was being announced, DD3 wandered in and asked if the new Pope was Chinese. I don’t supposed today’s 7 year olds hear Latin spoken very often. There was another funny moment a little later when DD1 , who should really know better, asked me ‘Is the Pope Catholic?’ It is one of my proudest parenting moments  that I can report that I didn’t reply ‘ Do Bears sh*t in the woods?’

One hour and 17 minutes after white smoke was first seen puffing out of the Sistine chimney, the Pope’s Twitter account sent out it’s first tweet.

First Pope Tweet

“HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM” translates as: “We have Pope Francis.”

From what I could tell, people were a little surprised by, but largely approved of the choice. My interest in the process has pretty much died now all the intrigue is over and I won’t be following  the Pope on Twitter any time soon.

But Pope Francis I looks cheerful and healthy enough, I hope he enjoys his new job and doesn’t find it all too much for him, like his predecessor did.



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