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Local man talks about being in Rome during 2005 conclave

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 12 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 13 2013 05:20:30 AM CDT

People all over the world are waiting for the white smoke in Rome.

People all over the world are waiting for the white smoke in Rome--the smoke that signals there is a new pope.

But did you ever wonder what it's actually like to be in St. Peter's Square?

One local man was there in 2005.

Michael Allebach called the time exciting and full of anticipation.

He is hoping after the cardinals select a pope it will be one who will be younger and have a different approach on how to lead the church.

One hundred fifteen cardinals went in to make the decision that many Catholics around the world are waiting for.

“The crowds there are bigger than any concert you've been to, any sporting event you've ever been to,” said Michael Allebach.

Allebach was in Rome studying in 2005, the time of two major milestones in the church.

“I was there when Pope John Paul passed which was very sad, but sort of an exciting time to see the reaction that that had,” added Allebach.

He was also there for the papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.

“We all had cell phones from the university and they would text us every time smoke would go up through the chimney.”

Allebach said he remembers people in St. Peter's Square praying and waiting for a sign that the cardinals voted on a new leader.

“I remember that one text we got, that said white smoke," said Allebach. "We all ran to the subway.”

After a short subway ride, Michael said it was a scene he will never forget.

“Where the subway is to where St. Peter's is a couple of blocks, I have vivid memories of nuns, like 80-year-old nuns hiking up their habits and just running like football players to see. It was pretty crazy.”

Now others are living this once in a lifetime event.

Allebach said he hopes they take in every minute.

“The most exciting thing I've ever been to,” he said.

The 115 cardinals took their first vote Tuesday afternoon but it was black smoke signaling they failed to agree on a pope.

They will resume voting Wednesday.