Nuns in Netherlands Rejoiced With New Pope

Poor Clares Prayed for Election of Cardinal Ratzinger

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EINDHOVEN, Netherlands, MAY 29, 2005 ( While the world tuned into Rome to follow the passing of Pope John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI, a group of cloistered nuns lived the events of April in prayer.

«The vigil in St. Peter’s Square that ended at 8:37 p.m., April 2, continued into the night here, where no radio or television could tell us that our father had indeed stepped over the threshold of hope,» recounted the April newsletter of the Poor Clare sisters in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

The cloistered nuns, who rely on ZENIT and friends for outside news, knew of John Paul II’s death by the tolling of a nearby church bell.

Counting the tolls, the nuns realized around midnight that when the number reached 15, «there was only one reason why a bell would be tolling in the night.»

When the rest of the world watched the funeral of John Paul II, the nuns spent the day in intense prayer.

«That course of action shocked at least one good gentleman,» the sisters wrote in the newsletter they sent by e-mail.

A reporter from the local Eindhoven newspaper wanted to take a photo of the nuns watching the funeral Mass. The nuns explained this would be impossible as they don’t own a television.

«At that moment he found himself a new mantra: You don’t have a TV? No TV? No TV? Not at all?» said the newsletter.

The nuns said they were praying intensely for the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, so they wanted to know right away who the new Pope was. They made arrangements with two friends of the community who were entrusted with the private phone number of the mother abbess, and they were to call the moment white smoke emitted from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

A call came in the afternoon of April 19, and reported that black smoke again came out of the chimney, but the mother abbess didn’t believe the report as it was too early for the voting session to be over.

Having access to the Internet, the nuns checked, and immediately the mother abbess called all the nuns to her office.

«All decorum went out the window,» reported the nuns, «as the portress sped through the monastery, calling through open doors ‘Habemus papam!» until she reached the bell rope and joined loud peals to the repeated call of ‘Habemus!'»

Following the events on the small screen on the desk of the mother abbess, the nuns, all squeezed into a small office, burst out with emotion when they heard the name «Ratzinger» pronounced.

«We cried, we jumped, we hugged one another, exclaimed and sighed for longer than we are telling anyone,» said the nuns.

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