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Report from Rome on Pope's First Day

Chevy Chase, DC's Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament parishioner Greta Kreuz, reporter and anchor for ABC7/WJLA-TV, tells Patch about what it was like to cover the election of the new pope.

When the Roman Catholic Church's new pope—Pope Francis—stepped out onto the papal balcony for the first time to greet the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square, Greta Kreuz was there to see it all, and to report on it.

Kreuz is an award-winning reporter and anchor for ABC7/WJLA-TV, and is a lector at Chevy Chase, DC's Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, at Chevy Chase Circle, where she has been attending services for about 17 years. 

Kreuz and a photographer from ABC7 arrived in Rome on Monday, March 11, expecting the papal conclave to last longer than just a couple of days.

"Unlike in 2005, when Cardinal Ratzinger was a known commodity/front runner, this time there was no single—or even top [three]—favorite," Kreuz wrote in an email to Patch.

"Moreover, many new cardinals had been elevated in 2012, and had never met each other. So the thought was, these men needed time to get to know each other. The myriad ... challenges facing the church, coupled with Pope Benedict’s surprise resignation, also made this unprecedented in modern times. Speculation was rampant. ... So I assumed we would be there for several days…at least," she added.

On Wednesday evening, March 13—the first full day of voting in the Sistine Chapel, Kreuz said—after a day of reporting from St. Peter's Square, Kreuz and the photographer were back in the hotel room editing the day's stories, with the television on in the background, tuned to the channel focused on the Sistine Chapel smokestack.

When the television started showing white smoke coming from the smokestack, "[we] quickly jumped into a cab and hightailed it to St. Peter’s. Everyone was running, racing. Traffic was gridlocked. We finally just jumped out and ran ourselves—I had our LiveU (backpack live capability) strapped to my back, and my [photographer] was shooting as we ran across the Tiber River and into the square," she wrote to Patch.

"When we joined the thousands there, the mood was exuberant and anticipatory—everyone was excited, craning to see the balcony, waiting to see who would come out. A sea of cell phones and cameras clicked away," Kreuz added.

"When the French cardinal came out and proclaimed, 'Habemus Papem!' everyone cheered and went wild," she added.

Many didn't recognize the new pope's name when it was announced, Kreuz said. "People [were] milling around, asking each other in various languages, 'Do you know who it is?' We heard 'Francis' as his chosen name, but there was still confusion. I finally heard a woman say 'Sud America' and I knew that meant South America. So slowly, word spread that it was [Jorge Mario] Bergoglio from Argentina."

Kreuz described Pope Francis' first appearance on the papal balcony as filling St. Peter's Square with "jubilation and joy."

"The reality was sinking in that this was the first pope from the Americas…that this was history in the making. And when he said simply, 'Buona Sera,' everyone went wild," Kreuz added.

After the new pope finished speaking, "people were singing and banging drums, waving flags…and we had to get back to work, finding Americans to interview and to get a live shot up for the 5 o’clock news," Kreuz added.

As a Catholic, Kreuz is hopeful about the new pope.

"I think the Church needed to make a bold move, and did so. I think the cardinals prayerfully discerned the crisis of confidence, and the need to exhibit simple, earnest, humble leadership," she wrote in her email to Patch.

The parishioners at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament also were excited about the new pope, Father Ronald Potts, pastor of Blessed Sacrament, told Patch.

The parishioners—some of whom are from Argentina—"are so excited to have Pope Francis coming from the Americas," he said. 

And, "as a Jesuit, his great love of the poor is certainly coming across loud and clear," Father Potts added.

Pope Francis became pope about a month ago. How do you think he is doing in his new position? Tell us in the comments.

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