Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick said that while in Rome, he invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit the nation’s capital “someday” soon.

Speaking to reporters yesterday at Ronald Reagan National Airport after three weeks in Rome, the cardinal said he broached the topic during one of two brief conversations that he had with the new pontiff after the German cardinal was elected on the fourth ballot to head the Roman Catholic Church.

“Whatever God wills,” Benedict is said to have responded.

Cardinal McCarrick — whose marathon stay in Rome included the funeral of Pope John Paul II, the election of his successor and the installation Mass for Benedict on Sunday — praised the new pope for his “clarity.”

“There’s never any doubt what Benedict teaches,” he said. “I think he’ll continue to be clear. He is so brilliant, he’ll be able to speak on questions of war and peace, bioethics, globalization.”

Although the 115 cardinals who selected the pope are sworn to secrecy, Cardinal McCarrick divulged a few more details of the swift conclave.

“There was some feeling of anxiety,” he said, ?as we wanted to do the right thing. We wanted to do what God wanted us to do.”

Only two of the 115 cardinals were present at the election of John Paul II 26 years ago, so the cardinals read and reread the procedures for electing a pope “to make sure we were doing it right,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

“Then a great prayerfulness came over us. We were saying, “Lord, will You help us do the right thing?’” he said. “We had prayerfulness with confidence the Lord was going to direct us, the Lord was going to guide us, and indeed I believe He did. I believe this Holy Father will be a great shepherd for the Church.”

Cardinal McCarrick said he had a ground-floor room next to cardinals from Asia and South America in the Sanctae Marthae, a Vatican residence built in 1996 specifically for conclaves.

The gravity of the election was impressed on the cardinals with a requirement that each must lay their hand on a Bible while casting the ballot.

“You say, ‘I call upon the Lord as my witness, the Lord who will be my judge, that I am voting for the person I truly believe, according to God, I should vote for,’” Cardinal McCarrick said. “Wow. If you did that during an election, that would make a big difference in the way we elect our officials today.”

Contrary to some press speculation, there was not a lot of conversation between cardinals on who should be elected, he said.

“We were not talking that much,” the cardinal said. “We saw there was a convergence in the house, and we saw this man will be good. As we got to know him, we could see a beautiful sense of humor, a great kindness, a great gentleness.”

The cardinals realized that “this is the man who the Lord wants us to call to the ministry of Peter,” the first pope, Cardinal McCarrick said. But he demurred when asked how he voted.

“I was very happy with the election,” he said.

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