- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2005

Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who submitted his mandatory resignation letter when he turned 75 on July 7, yesterday did not reveal whether his recent visit in Rome with Pope Benedict XVI elicited an extended term in office.

“I’m here until the Holy Father says he’s happy to accept my resignation,” he said. Cardinals typically serve well past their retirement age, he added, so “I’m working until they tell me to stop working.”

He did say the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did not expect to be elected Pope Benedict XVI; thus the new pontiff yesterday went to northern Italy to think things through.

“As archbishop of Washington, the problems that come across my desk every morning are enough to drive you to prayer,” the cardinal said at the National Press Club. “[The pope] is using the summer to figure things out. He’s saying, ‘Now that I’m pope, where do I go and what do I focus on?’ ”

He predicted Benedict XVI will continue reaching out to Jewish groups, could travel to Istanbul and Israel and will be more dialogistic than Pope John Paul II.



“He’ll see the reason for getting together with cardinals and bishops more often and listening,” the cardinal said. “I think he’ll not be afraid to move ahead; he’ll not be afraid to accept the conversion of culture his predecessor asked for.”

Thus, the new pope has been telling Italians, who have some of the continent’s lowest birth rates, to reestablish the family as the cornerstone of society. Toughness, mixed with clarity, the cardinal added, will be the hallmark of Benedict’s reign.

Cardinal McCarrick also divulged more details of what occurred inside the Sistine Chapel the afternoon of April 19. One complication was that Benedict didn’t fit into any of the white cassocks readied for the pope.

Someone offered to go get a new one, but the new pope said he didn’t want to keep the crowds waiting; a sign, said the cardinal, “of the extraordinary courtesy of this man.”

Someone found an alb — a simple white garment all priests wear — but before they slipped it over Benedict’s head, “How cold is it out there?” the new pope asked.

“It’s chilly,” his aides replied, plus a few drops of rain had begun to fall.

“I’m going to keep my sweater on,” Benedict XVI then announced. Thus, photos of the new pope, as he stood above St. Peter’s Square in his papal regalia, show a black sweater peeping out from underneath the alb.

“It’s a great sign that this man is going to be an extraordinary human being,” the cardinal said. “This man is not afraid to ask for prayers. This man is not afraid to look for help.”

Plus, “He speaks better English than I do,” the cardinal said, adding that when he tries speaking to the pope in German, the pontiff switches the conversation back to English. Benedict is also fluent in Italian, French, Spanish and has been trying out some Polish lately.

“His accent is good and he seems to be getting along,” the cardinal said.

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