Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Remembering the Election of Pope Benedict
Lino Rulli's recollections of the election of Pope Benedict brought back recollections of my own. I too was in Rome for that remarkable week. Most telling was his last homily before the cardinals entered the Conclave. It was the famous "isms" speech, when he decried a series of threats to humanity, most particularly Relativism. Although the doors of the Sistine Chapel had not yet been locked, already the sense that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger could become the next Pope was spreading. Italian newspapers saw his "ism" speech as a challenge to the Conclave and a sign that he was not abandoning his "hard line" views. In retrospect, it was simply an honest, eloquent assessment of the threats facing the Church and particularly facing the Church in Europe.Like Lino, I too was in the Square when we saw the white smoke. There were perhaps only 15,000 people in the Square when the smoke appeared, but within minutes there was easily more than a 100,000 as people rushed to the Square. We saw the new Pope in the window over St. Peter's, but we also saw him on huge television screens, which made us feel both like participants and spectators in this historic event. I was struck not so much by his smile as by the awesome weight that appeared to have descended on his shoulders. Yet as the crowd cheered and chanted, he seemed to respond to the acclaim.Nearby, a group of American Religious stood. The seminarians cheered and waved. An older priest shook his head and walked away. That seemed to sum up the twin reactions at the news of Cardinal Ratzinger's election Pope.As the intervening three years has shown, Pope Benedict has not been the cartoon character that much of the media coverage made of him. He is no Torquemada, but he is an eloquent pastor. I have not doubt that is who we will also see over the next five days.