Monday, 9 July 2007
Pope Benedict the Good
I met our present holy Father early in 1990; I had been ordained only a few months, and by the kind offices of a priest of my diocese who worked in the curia, I was permiited to concelebrate a Mass with Pope John Paul early one morning,. That was an experience in itself, which perhaps I will blog about some other time. But, emerging from the Vatican, I happened to come across Cardinal Ratzinger, on the way to his office.
Here was a man I had very much wanted to meet. In particular, I wanted to thank him for his defence of the Catholic faith. He had been someone who had made me persevere with my vocation in the seminary, knowing that I wasn't entirely alone. I tried to tell him what I felt in my halting German; he smiled, and tried to speak to me in English. His English then was little better than my German, so we compromised on Italian, and finally I managed, more or less, to deliver my message.
Never, never, in my life, have I forgotten the kindness of that man in stopping to speak to a nobody, a newly-ordained priest. In the later years, when he was hailed as Panzer-Kardinal, God's Rottweiler &c, I never forgot his gentleness, civility and charity. I was never surprised when the world finally realized what a lovely man he is.
I count those moments when he stepped out onto the balcony as Benedict XVI as among the happiest in my life. I literally cried for joy—something I have very rarely, if ever, done before. I was never in the slightest doubt about his good will on almost every level.