Brow Beat

Pope Francis Trapped in an Elevator for 25 Minutes

Pope Francis speaks from the window of the apostolic palace after being freed from his elevator.
The Pope, no longer trapped in an elevator. Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of Vatican City-State, and Servant of the Servants of God, got himself trapped in an elevator on Sunday, the BBC reports. He was rescued 25 minutes later by firefighters.

The Pope—not to be confused with the New Pope, the Two Popes, or the Young Pope—was on his way to St. Peter’s Square to deliver his weekly prayer when a power outage stalled out his elevator. The incident did not go unnoticed: Italian television networks carry the Pope’s prayer live, and worried that the atypical delay was the result of a medical issue, rather than the result of the Pope being trapped in an elevator. When the Pope finally escaped the elevator, he explained the situation to an appreciative crowd:

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Unfortunately, it’s far from the first time a Pope has had a run-in with an elevator. The first elevator in the Vatican, a hand-cranked model installed by Leo XIII in 1900 to accommodate an aging cardinal, never trapped a single Pope: The largest scandal it caused was a few raised eyebrows when a lapsed Catholic used it. Pius X went electric in 1905, installing what turned out to be a sort of early warning Pope alarm, as the Boston Globe noted in 1912:

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In Winter the morning descent of the Pope from the third to the second floor is announced to the prelates in the Vatican automatically and infallibly. They have noticed that when the Pope’s elevator starts the electric lights in the other apartments are dimmed for an instant. 

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Over the years, however, the papal elevator began causing papal mischief. In March of 1934, Pope Pius XI was trapped for five minutes on his way to services in St. Peter’s; Pope Pius XII was trapped in a papal elevator for fifteen minutes at some unspecified point during his tenure, and in December of 1965, the same thing happened to Pope Paul VI. And now, once again, another Pope has gotten himself trapped in an elevator. Asked to comment on his habit of trapping Popes in elevators, God released a lengthy and bewildering statement that mostly dodged the question:

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

At press time, it is believed that none of the elevators in Vatican City contain trapped Popes, Popes Emeriti, or Antipopes. For now.

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