Cardinal Donald Wuerl at the Museum around the cabinet that holds the conclave ballot

OBJECTS AND STORIES – The Ballot of the Papal Conclave, 2013

It was March 13, 2013. The world awaited with baited breath for the new successor of St. Peter. Storm clouds gathered around the Vatican as thousands of rain-soaked tourists and faithful, huddled under multi-coloured raincoats and ponchos, in prayer and patience. All eyes were fixed on the humble four-foot chimney, first used in 1939 to elect Pope Pius XII, now charged by the weight to reveal the new Pope. This time, the audience hoped not for an audible Noooo.

At 7:06 pm, Roman Time, the sombre setting erupted to a new-found joy! The chimney spewed billows of white smoke and the bells of the Vatican pealed in jubilation! We now had a Pope. But who? A hundred-thousand eyes turned to the red draped windows of the loggia of St. Peter’s, tinged with hope. The cool atmosphere was thick with suspense.

The French Cardinal Protodeacon, Jean-Louis Tauran appeared on the balcony with those famous feverish words – “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus Papam!” (I announce to you with great joy WE HAVE A POPE!). A page in history turned as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, stepped out of the wings as Pope Francis I.

Seven years later, a little cabinet at the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum, still stands tall in memory of these unforgettable moments. Within the cabinet are placed a series of souvenirs graciously donated by H.E. Oswald Cardinal Gracias who participated in the 2013 Conclave. The most significant among them is the unused ballot which delicately reminds us of the process of the Papal Election.

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