March 19: Covering the Installation Mass

By Matthew Vann

March 19-

Crowds gather in anticipation of Pope Francis' arrival. David Palacio / Religio.

Crowds gather in anticipation of Pope Francis’ arrival. David Palacio / Religio.

Maybe it was overkill, but Professor Goldman sent all 16 of us to St. Peter’s Square early Tuesday morning to cover the installation of Pope Francis. He said that “perhaps Religio had the biggest news bureau covering the event.”

Every member of our team had an assignment. There were photographers, videographers, reporters and bloggers. I covered protesters, Lauren focoused on the merchandising of the new pope while Dana reported on clergy from Third World countries.

While everyone had a job to do, most members of the class reported that they were also moved by what they saw. “I’m not Catholic, but I feel like becoming one,” said Marie Telling-Lepas after seeing a Franciscan friar dressed in a habit without shoes kneel down in prayer in St. Peter’s Square. Massimo Coppo, the Franciscan friar traveled to Rome from Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order.

“We are exalted in Assisi because his name is Francesco,” Coppo said of the new pope. The name, he said, “ means poverty, it means peace and it means taking care of creation. This is everything we need right now.”

The installation mass wasn’t without its technical struggles. Our photographer David Palacio jostled for position to get the best shots of Francis as he was being driven around St. Peter’s Square.

Catholic nuns join the throngs of pilgrims at the pope's installation mass.  David Palacio / Religio.

Catholic nuns join the throngs of pilgrims at the pope’s installation mass. David Palacio / Religio.

Harman Boparai was  shoved by nuns eager to get a look at the new pope as he shot his standup in their vicinity with the help of Stephen Jiwanmall.

Dana Forde was hoisted on top of a fountain so she could get a better view of the crowd in the square.

“I was basically looking for clergy of various nationalities in the square,” said Forde. “So I tried speaking with people holding up their country’s flag.”

As soon as the mass was over, everyone reported to Professor Goldman who had set up a newsroom in his hotel room at the Emmaus. With the help of our managing editors, Mustafa Hameed and Morgan Davis, our stories, pictures and videos were ready by the time our readers in New York were waking up.

After a long day of reporting, writing, editing and posting, we did what all good foreign correspondents used to do: head for the bar at the  Foreign Press Association. The J School Alumni office had rented the bar for the night for a special reception. Almost a dozen J School alumni, including Dennis Redmont, class of 1963 and a former Vatican reporter for the Associated Press, joined us for the celebration.