Pilgrims Greet New Cardinals
Pope’s open house venue for congratulations and prayers.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When the Pope creates new cardinals, he also throws an “open house.”
For just two hours in the afternoon after the hat-receiving ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, the public is invited to march past the Swiss Guards and through the Bronze
Doors to climb an immense granite staircase into the heart of the ornately decorated Apostolic Palace.
While the Pope isn’t present, the newly created cardinals and other Vatican glitterati are. Top Church officials make the rounds through the frescoed rooms and halls together with family and friends of the new cardinals to offer their congratulations and prayers.
“Should we kneel? Should we bow?” wondered some Italian pilgrims, waiting in line before the Swiss Guards gave the go-ahead to ascend the staircase.
“I’m going to bow and kiss his hand,” said one Italian woman.
“I’m going to watch and see what the people in front of me do,” said her friend.
Others were more certain of their approach. After bowing and kissing his cardinal’s ring, one U.S. couple kneeled and asked their archbishop emeritus, Cardinal Raymond Burke, for his blessing.
Amy and Mark Dunn of St. Louis told Catholic News Service that it was their first trip to Rome and that they were moved by the “very powerful, very holy and very spiritual” ceremony and events.
Some pilgrims brought gifts for the new cardinals, which ranged from flowers, special sweets from their home country or pectoral crosses. Many wanted their picture taken with the new cardinals, who were resplendent in their red cassocks and three-cornered birettas.
Picture taking didn’t always go smoothly as some fumbled, trying to figure out how to work a friend’s touchpad camera phone and other handheld devices.
The president of Guinea’s national council of communications handed his pocket digital camera to a reporter to get his and his government delegation’s pictures taken with their country’s first cardinal, Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
When Cardinal Sarah speaks, the people of Guinea listen and respect what he has to say, even though 85% of the country’s population is Muslim, said Bakary Fofana, Guinea’s minister of foreign affairs.
“He speaks for justice, respect for the law, religious harmony and democracy. He is very courageous, and he has the capacity to move people’s hearts,” Fofana told CNS.
The whole nation — Muslims and Catholics — was thrilled to be honored with their first cardinal, he said, adding that the government paid the airfare, lodging and other costs for 100 Guineans to come to Rome for the consistory.
Because thousands of people turn out for the reception, half of the 24 new cardinals received guests in the Paul VI hall, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington.
“His devotion and dedication to the Church inspires me,” said Father Charles Gallagher of Silver Spring, Md.
“His work ethic, his concern for his priests, and his whole diocese is a model for me,” Father Gallagher said.
While the cardinals in the Apostolic Palace were predominantly European, there was a more pronounced international flavor in the large modern hall with the cardinals from Zambia, Congo, Sri Lanka, Poland, the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt and Germany’s Bavaria greeting their friends and faithful.
Congolese women danced and sang as they waited in line to greet Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa. Numerous young men and women, some with small children, laughed and mingled, creating an air of a joyous family reunion more than a formal ecclesial affair.
Retired Zambian archbishop, Cardinal Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, signed people’s Mass booklets, and all the cardinals handed out specially made prayer cards.
Pilgrims placed a large red, orange and yellow garland on Sri Lankan Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don of Colombo.
But by far the most colorful and lyrical were the hundreds of Bavarian Germans who came to see Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.
Large numbers of pilgrims dressed in traditional outfits with knee-length lederhosen, embroidered wool socks and hats decorated with flowers, feathers and pins. Groups stood on the Paul VI hall stage to perform some impromptu songs, followed by appreciative applause from everyone present.