Friday, March 24, 2006 was the day of the consistory and the surrounding receptions. It was absolutely exhausted, and exhilirating all at the same time.
Our day started early this morning at 5 am. Thankfully, the clothes that we sent to the laundry to be pressed came back perfect. We tried to get washed and ready in the incredibly small bathroom and "cell". We kept tripping over each other.
Piazza Sant' UfficioSomehow we did get ready and by 6:30 we were having breakfast. At 7 I looked out the window and saw that people were already beginning to line up to for the consistory. So, we left the hotel and joined the 40-50 people who were waiting in line. As we waited we watched the people who work in the Vatican coming to work through the Piazza Sant' Ufficio and the various delivery trucks coming to make their deliveries. The Americans who were in line were fascinated to see a Coca-Cola truck delivering to the Vatican. We were all freezing cold and hoping that it wouldn't rain. The skies were threatening and there were occasional rumbles of thunder. Fortunately, the rain held off until the consistory ended. Then the downpour began.
Within 20 minutes the line of 50 had become a massive crowd of several thousand which kept growing.
The barricade was opened at 8:30 and we were sent through security. We walked though metal detectors and our bags were x-rayed. People started pushing and running to get ahead, but the Swiss Guard and Vatican Police put a stop to that. Several guards called out to people, "Remember you ARE in church!" Some people who tried to force their way to good seats were detained by the guards and made to wait a few minutes.
We found some excellent seats in the middle of the first row. We were right next to the television camera. In the section in front of us, there were a few rows reserved for the cardinal’s families and visiting heads of state.
Archbishop Marini rehearsing with the servers
The square was buzzing with activity as gardeners made last minute changes to flowers. They even laid sod. Altar servers rehearsed under Archbishop Marini’s careful direction. Microphones were tested, furniture was repositioned and red hats were counted.
The Cardinals-electThe choir stood against the wall of St. Peter’s and was almost not able to be seen. The monsignori sat on the left, behind the Holy Father. The Cardinals were in front of them and the bishops were in front of them sitting slightly askew.
The Gentlemen of the Vatican and their wives sat on the right along with more bishops.
The new cardinals processed from the Apostolic Palace to the sagrato of the basilica. Seeing Bishop Sean in his cardinatial robes was such a moving experience brought me to tears. Literally tears of joy. He sat on the sagrato, directly in front of us. I was surprised when he noticed us and waved.
Pope Benedict walking to his chair
It wasn't long before Pope Benedict appeared in procession from the central doors of the basilica. The organ and choir sounded beautiful. Actually, the entire liturgy was spectacular.
The new cardinalOne of the moments which caused a outpouring of emotion was when Cardinal Dery, from Ghana, was carried up the steps to the pope in his wheelchair. Pope Benedict rose, leaned down and embraced him. It was a loving, tender gesture of love and respect towards the 87 year old cardinal which got a huge "Awwww!" from the congregation.
After the liturgy, we left the square along with the massive crowd. We returned quickly to our hotel for a few minutes then headed to the Pontifical North American College. It was a short walk through a tunnel, a parking garage and a hill. Once we got to the PNAC we were surrounded by familiar faces. It was nice to see so many people from the Diocese of Fall River. There were also many people from the Archdiocese of Washington, where Cardinal O'Malley served as a priest for many years, and from the Diocese of Palm Beach.
The reception was in honor of both Cardinal O'Malley and Cardinal Levada, so there were many people from the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Several of the people at our table were from San Francisco and three others were theology students at the Angelicum. Since it is a Friday of Lent, lunch was eggs every which way and pasta.
William Cardinal LevadaAfter we ate, we joined the lines to greet both Cardinal O'Malley and Cardinal Levada. I must admit to being nervous to speak with the successor of Cardinal Ratzinger. However, he was very nice. I don't know what I was afraid of. It's not like I have never talked with a cardinal before, but it is the first time I have talked with anyone who works so closely with the pope.
Photos by Domini Sumus