By Chelsea Kuchik
Loyola University Chicago students studying at the John Felice Rome Center are buzzing with excitement at the election of the new Pope, Francis I.
“Everyone here is super excited,” Sam LoDuca, 20, a sophomore International Business major said about the appointment of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina.
“People were in class and on the soccer fields and when they found out [the pope had been chosen] they quite literally ‘ran downtown.’ The energy in the square was crazy,” LoDuca said.
Sentiments about Pope Francis I seem generally positive, with many feeling solidarity with a Jesuit pope and excitement that he is from a non-European country, which has not occurred in nearly 1,300 years.
“My Italian teacher made a comment about [Francis I] being American, saying that, to Europeans, everything in the West is American. I thought it was interesting that he referred to him simply as an American because a lot of ignorant people would think he was talking about a citizen from the United States. Either way, it’s an interesting change,” LoDuca said.
Overall, the students feel very lucky to be getting an added treat to their study abroad experience: the chance to be right in the middle of Rome during the Papal Elections.
Since Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation on Feb. 11, the capital city has been buzzing with the incoming wave of nuns, tourists, and the 115 cardinals who voted on the Pope.
“Priests and nuns are populating Rome. They’re literally everywhere. On the day he resigned the Vatican was filled with intense prayer services and people saying the rosary,” Kayla Holme, 20, a sophomore business major said.
“I think it is exciting to be here during this, because how many people get the opportunity to say they were here during the papal election? Especially since a pope has not resigned in about 600 years,” Holme said.
Loyola students are ecstatic to be participating in historical moments as they live daily life at the John Felice Rome Center, also called the “J-Force.”
“I saw his second to last papal audience, the last one before he [Benedict] announced his retirement…certain groups were announced to be present at the audience, including students of Loyola University Chicago. When they announced our school, all the students stood up and shouted,” Midori Higuchi, 20, a sophomore business major said.
Another student, Daniela Orihuela, 20, an International Studies Major, recalls witnessing another historical moment on her daily jog: “as soon as I turned the corner of the Vatican Square, I witnessed Benedict flying away on a helicopter to the Papal summer home.”
Benedict XVI’s departure has just marked the beginning of the festivities, however. News reporters have flooded Vatican City as well, giving some Loyola students the opportunity to be interviewed.
“News anchors from back in America have been interviewing Loyola students. Some have appeared on NBC, ABC, and BBC news,” Marco Matias, 20, a junior psychology major said.
Like the reporters, Loyola’s J-Force students do not want to miss a moment as well.
“I plan to be at St. Peter’s as much as I can this week and hope that I’m there to see the white smoke and other historical moments,” Orihuela said.
As for the election, some students had expressed hopes that the new Pope would be American, but are grateful for this experience no matter who would have been chosen.
“Regardless, it’s an amazing feeling to be a part of such a significant moment in history” Higuchi said.