Thursday, March 14, 2013
A Humble Pope
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Delighted cardinals walked about the North American College this morning as seminarians and staff congratulated them on a job well done, electing Pope Francis, the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere. Doing interviews into the early morning hours couldn’t dampen their spirits at breakfast.
Messages abound and one can expect to learn more from what Pope Francis does than from what he says. Instructions for what to wear for upcoming meetings suggest that the simple style he is known for continues. Today, the cardinals were advised to wear the black house cassock rather than the more formal red choir robes with white surplice. Asking the people in the square last night to bless him before he blessed them came across as startlingly humble. The prayerful silence that fell over the square revealed the new bishop of Rome already had touched hearts. There’s a new energy in the air.
The morning TV shows are easy because, for this week, seven a.m. in New York is noon in Rome. Some networks are coming up to North American College to do their interviews. Others, such as NBC, are transporting the cardinals to their set.
Media ingenuity always entertains me. Last night, despite rain and cold, some reporters sat on the steps outside to do their work and watch for returning cardinals. Even though we opened the comfortable auditorium to them, others sat on the floor inside the front door. I laughed as photographers lined up with cameras facing the front door to catch the entering cardinals because I heard they were coming in from the back. The joke was on me, however. While most of the cardinals, who were in a van, did come in the back way, Cardinal Dolan came by car and entered through the front, a gift to the picture-starved reporters.
Cardinal Adam Maida, over 80 and so not an elector, is now doing media interviews and a Detroit station slated him for 2:30 p.m. for a program back in the Motor City. I set out to find him when he didn’t answer the phone in his room. On my way I met Mike Clark, a member of the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board and an anchor from a Pittsburgh TV station. He was awaiting Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a Pittsburgh native , former Pittsburgh bishop and now cardinal archbishop of Washington. Mike reminded me that Cardinal Wuerl is the seventh cardinal from the Steel City.
Someone told me he had seen Cardinal Maida walking around the courtyard praying the rosary. I continued the search and met an ABC producer who needed to get up to the NAC roof for interviews with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Cardinal Wuerl. I brought her up to see the magnificent view of St. Peter’s but still no Cardinal Maida. I ran into colleague Don Clemmer, who was setting up an interview for Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and told him of my search. He said he was looking for Cardinal McCarrick for an interview. I stopped in the kitchen for a cappuccino, then went back to the office. There I found Cardinal McCarrick doing an interview with France’s daily La Croix. Afterwards I enlisted him to help find Cardinal Maida. At this point, the over-80 cardinals have more energy than I.
Planning becomes a challenge when the principals are sequestered. The answer “We don’t know” became uncomfortably familiar last evening. “When are the cardinals coming back?” We don’t know. “Will you have a media conference tonight? “ We don’t know. “What are the cardinals doing now?” We don’t know. Plans were in place, of course, but they were tentative because a vanload of cardinals, sequestered for even two days, can change even the best laid plan.
This morning we heard why the cardinals were late. They were eating dinner with the pope and couldn’t leave before him.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh is media relations director of the USCCB.