Monday, April 25, 2005

How Pope Benedict won the conclave

The Eagle and Elephant , a cool blog loyal to St Thomas, links to a very fine article from the LA Times on how Benedict XVI won. This is a fascinating article. A few gems:

1. The battle between progressives and traditionalists never took place:But an anticipated struggle between moderate cardinals and the pro-Ratzinger forces never materialized. The moderates included Italians, other Europeans and Americans who went into the conclave allied with Tettamanzi and his predecessor as archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, according to several accounts.

2. The cardinals seemed more awed by the responsibility than they were interested in politicking: Cardinals described the atmosphere of the vote as more like a spiritual retreat than a political event. They recalled the wonder and solemnity of an experience played out beneath Michelangelo's majestic fresco of the Last Judgment...
"You take Christ as your witness that you will pick the best man, and then you look up at the 'Last Judgment,' at all those people going to heaven and all those going to hell," Errazuriz recalled. "I remember thinking, 'At least in that hell there aren't ferocious flames.' And 115 people do that, one right after the other, each with a very personal awareness that he is standing alone before God.""It's notable that in these circumstances, some cardinals change their votes from one ballot to the next," he added. "It's a matter of reflection. There were many, many hours of prayer."

3. The Latin Americans supported Ratzinger, rather than a local candidate.Recent years had brought predictions that some cardinals would push for a precedent-making pope from Latin America, where 40% of all Roman Catholics live. But "there was a significant Latin American vote for Ratzinger from the very beginning," said Alejandro Bermudez of Peru, the editor of Lima-based ACI Prensa.Most of the region's 20 cardinals were satisfied that John Paul II had placed Latin Americans in powerful bastions of a bureaucracy once dominated by Italians and saw Ratzinger as a status quo leader who would prevent an Italian resurgence, Bermudez said."The Latin Americans do not feel neglected," he said. "Having a Latin American pope was simply not a priority for the Latin American cardinals themselves."The Latin Americans' conquest of turf in Vatican City also meant that many had little interest in decentralization, a priority of U.S. and Central European moderates, he said.

4. Ratzinger's humanity was evident to the last:Amid the emotion and commotion, the new pope remembered that Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia turned 70 that day and took a moment to wish him a happy birthday. "With all the things he had to think about, he had a very human touch," Rigali said.

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