Future Knoxville priest witnesses pope's announcement

10:38 PM, Mar 13, 2013   |    comments
Courtesy: Michael Hendershott
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People traveled from all over the world to see the announcement of the Pope Francis, including a handful of Knoxville Catholics.

Michael Hendershott, 25, had one of the best seats in the house.

"It was a wonderful experience," said Hendershott, a Knoxville native studying in Rome. "It was a complete surprise, just like it was for the rest of the world. It was quite a shock."

He lives just a short walk from Vatican City. He's in school at a nearby seminary, studying to be a priest for the Diocese of Knoxville.

"I see St. Peter's dome outside my window," he said.

Despite the rain and cold, Hendershott made the trip to the square after each voting session to check the color of the smoke. Wednesday night he wasn't expecting it when he saw white.

"The first thing I thought when I saw the white smoke was 'Habemus Papam,' we have a pope.  We have a Father. I was happy how quickly it was," he said.

He shared the excitement with tens of thousands of others.  Luckily, he was near the front.

"Everyone was condensed right to the very front of St. Peter's [square]. So I was right about 25 yards from the front. I had a great view of the window where the new Holy Father made his first appearance," Hendershott said.

As he continues to study the history and tradition of Catholicism, he said he will always carry with him the moment of history. He also said Pope Francis will play a large role in his priesthood when he returns to serve Knoxville.

At least three other parishioners from Knoxville also witnessed the event, according to the Diocese of Knoxville. Some of them had planned their trips before they knew about the election.

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