"Habemus Papam"

As we mark Blessed John Paul’s first feast day, some of us may have forgotten what a shock it was when the news was announced that the new pope would be a cardinal from Poland.   No one even knew how to pronounce his name.  And the crowd in St. Peter’s Square was genuinely stunned.  Hear their reaction below, in this little time capsule from ABC News.  A generation later, it still gives goosebumps.

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17 responses to “"Habemus Papam"”

  1. My maternal-grandmother was a Polish immigrant (came over in 1913). She was still alive and alert in 1978 when “Habemus Papam” was proclaimed but she didn’t watch TV or listen to radio much. My Mom called her on the phone and told her about it — in Polish, what else — and Grandma Karolina started crying. When my Mom asked what was going on, her reply, through her tears was: “I think I have died and gone to heaven.” BTW; she live more–meeting her Risen Lord 4 months shy of her 100th birthday.

  2. Can you explain why a Polish Pope was so shocking? I was in grade school back then and not paying much attention. 🙂

  3. Justamouse…

    For eons, the popes had always been Italian. And there had never been a pope from Poland. Ever. To the best of my knowledge, Karol Wojtyla wasn’t on anybody’s short list of possible popes. And he was so young, too (58 at the time of his election). This was something altogether new.

    Dcn. G.

  4. Deacon Greg #4:

    This is what I heard about how at the 1978 conclave the cardinals elected a Polish pope (the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Adrian VI who reigned from 1522 to 1523):

    After 7 ballots which did not reach the required 2/3 plus one vote, someone said: “Let’s take a poll.” (True story!)

  5. I remember the day I learned of the election of Pope John Paul II. My youngest son was a baby at the time. Often my grandmother would stop by after daily Mass to see the baby. That day when she came, she said, “Did you hear about the Polish pope?” If it had been anybody else I would have been waiting for the punch line. But Nana was a sweet well-mannered lady not given to telling ethnic jokes. We both thought it was great that a non-Italian had been elected; not that we thought there was anything wrong with Italians, but it was more reflective of the Church universal that others would get a chance once in a while.

  6. One story about the election is that when the name was announced — with the first name “Carolum” followed by the lengthy title of a cardinal before the last name is given — during the interval, a number of people thought of the 85-year-old Carlo Confalonieri and thought the cardinal electors had taken leave of their senses.

  7. The election happened on the feast of St. Hedwig. I had Mass for grades 3 and 4 that morning and told them it was a great day to be Polish. Little did I know what I was saying. After the election, at least two telephone exchanges in Toledo crashed, because so many people in the Polish neighborhoods were trying to call their friends and relatives to talk about the news.

  8. “I think he may have a long pontificate.”

    That made me laugh. That was probably more prophetic than anyone guessed at the time.

  9. Fr. Tom

    Welcome to the blog! Glad you are checking-in. One of these day’s I’ll send you an e-mail.

  10. I watched the announcement with my 9 year old son tonight. When I enthusiastically repeated “Habemus Papam!,” he calmly replied, “Yes, we always have a Pope.” 🙂 That made me a little weepy.

    I am a new Catholic, 2 years old and a few months. I could not even appreciate Pope Benedict XVI’s election, as I was busy casting off the Church as a bunch of chauvinistic weirdos in dresses. Thanks be to God, He called me anyway.

  11. and this Saint is the reason that even a corrupt clergy-ie pediophiles-cannot destroy the Church————-

  12. I was there right under the balcony. The buzz you hear after the announcement is word spreading through the crowd asking who he was. Many of us thought for a brief moment that he might be an African. It was an incredibly beautiful October night, with a full moon shining clearly over the square.

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