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Pilot Dispatches from Rome: The press conference that wasn’t
Wed, 06 Mar 2013 22:28:00 +0000

 

By Gregory L. Tracy

In my dispatch today I had planned to share with you some details of afternoon press conference with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick , Archbishop Emeritus of Washington.

However, the news of the day turned out to be that that press conference never happened — and will not happen again.

With just an hour’s notice, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, Director of Media Relations with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent out a five word email “Today’s Briefing at NAC cancelled.”

The daily briefings by American Cardinals have become quite a popular event among journalists here to cover the conclave and the meetings leading up to it.

Following each day’s 1 p.m. briefing at the Vatican, about 100 journalists and about two dozen television crews would make a short trek up the Hill to the North American College to hear to American Cardinals reflect on the day’s events. In the previous two days since the general congregations had begun, Cardinals George, Wuerl, O’Malley and DiNardo had done an admirable job of juggling their desire to be open against their vow of secrecy.Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Chicago Cardinal Francis George speak to the media at the Pontifical North American College March 4, 2013 about the first meeting of General Congregations.  Pilot photo by Gregory L.  Tracy

Later, in a formal statement to the press, Sister Mary Ann wrote, “The U.S. cardinals are committed to transparency and have been pleased to share a process-related overview of their work with members of the media and with the public, in order to inform while ensuring the confidentiality of the General Congregations.

Due to concerns over accounts being reported in the Italian press, which breached confidentiality, the College of Cardinals has agreed not to give interviews.”

The email canceling the American press conference came in the midst of the daily Vatican briefing. Asked about the abrupt cancellation, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that the Vatican had not ordered the Americans to keep silent, but instead it was the Cardinals themselves who decided to avoid speaking to the media. He also added, that it “seems natural that the path towards the conclave lead progressively to greater reflection and discretion.”

On to less heavy news, today a group of Boston pilgrims from the archdiocese’s Master of Arts in Ministry program arrived in Rome on a preplanned trip, retracing the steps of Blessed Pope John Paul II his journey to the papacy.2013-03-06-GTracy_35

Along with other members of the Pilot media team, I spoke to them in St. Peter’s Square as they were coming out after having celebrated Mass in the Basilica.

A story including observations of being in Rome at this unique time will appear in this week’s edition of The Pilot. In the meantime, you can listen to some of their comments here:

Download: Boston%20Pilgrims.mp3


With the press conference canceled, the remaining public event of the day was the gathering of the Cardinals at St. Peter’s Basilica at the altar of the chair of Peter to pray for guidance and the help of the Holy Spirit in selecting next Pope. As I predicted yesterday was inspiring to see the College of Cardinals — among whom is the next Pope — gathered in prayer and adoration in such a public way, reminding the world that the center of this process is God not man.

2013-03-06-GTracy_362013-03-06-GTracy_372013-03-06-GTracy_382013-03-06-GTracy_40

On a parting note, with the resignation of Pope Benedict behind us and the conclave seemingly in the immediate future, restrictions on time and resources necessitate that I returned to Boston this week. Consequently, this will be my last Dispatch from Rome.

Yesterday, March 5, other members of the Catholic Media Secretariat in the Archdiocese of Boston, including representatives of the CatholicTV Network and The Pilot New Media Group, arrived in Rome.

Cardinal O'Malley speaks with Jay Fadden of CatholicTV Network March 5. Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

I leave confident that they will continue the ongoing coverage of the conclave and its run-up, and of course, the announcement of the next Pope – whether he has a beard or not.


Pilot dispatches from Rome: Cardinals DiNardo and O’Malley address the media
Wed, 06 Mar 2013 00:36:25 +0000

By Gregory L. Tracy

Today, someone finally asked the question that has probably been on the minds of many people in Boston: If he is elected Pope will Cardinal Sean O’Malley still continue to wear his Capuchin robes?

The Cardinal artfully dodged the question, stating that he has worn them for over 40 years and plans to continue wearing them, he also said he has no intention of “changing uniforms” anytime soon.

Listen to the press conference here:

Download: 2013-03-05-PressConference-GTracyPilot.mp3

Galveston – Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley answer questions for the media at the Pontifical North American College March 5, 2013.</p> <p>Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

Cardinal O’Malley along with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston – Houston spoke to the media today at the Pontifical North American College after the second day of meetings of the College of Cardinals’ general congregations.Galveston – Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley answer questions for the media at the Pontifical North American College March 5, 2013.</p> <p>Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

This morning’s meeting – technically the third congregation, because yesterday’s evening session was considered the second congregation rather than a continuation of the first – included seven more Cardinals then the evening before, bringing the total in attendance to 148, 110 of whom are Cardinal electors.

Unlike yesterday meetings which consisted mainly of opening addresses and explanations of procedures, today’s session involved the Cardinals hearing 11 “interventions” – a term mainly used in the church to describe a reflection or address. According to the Vatican the topics covered included “activities of the Holy See and its relations with bishops throughout the world; Church renewal in light of Vatican Council II; the Church’s position and the need for the New Evangelization in today’s world with its diverse cultural environments.”

It was also announced today that the College of Cardinals had sent their telegram expressing gratitude and prayers to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

As in yesterday’s briefing with Cardinals George and Wuerl, the cardinals took questions from members of the media. In addition to the question about Cardinal O’Malley’s robes, questions to the two cardinals included such topics as: whether the existence of a former Pope will influence the cardinals’ decision, whether a quick or slow conclave could result in Italian or non-Italian pope, and whether they feel the need to see the report created in the wake of the “Vatileaks” scandal that Pope Benedict had said would only be shown to the next Pope.Galveston – Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley answer questions for the media at the Pontifical North American College March 5, 2013.</p> <p>Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

Both cardinals did their best answer, while acknowledging that they could not speak of the content of the day’s proceedings.

However, the main topic of inquiry remained the same as the day before: what was there opinion on the potential start date the conclave. And again today, both cardinals expressed the need for the body to take its time in hearing reflections on the issues facing the Church and discerning the man that each thinks should be the next Pope.Galveston – Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley answer questions for the media at the Pontifical North American College March 5, 2013.</p> <p>Pilot photo by Gregory L. Tracy

Interestingly, Cardinal DiNardo echoed the sentiments of Cardinal Wuerl in yesterday’s press conference, citing the coffee breaks – the time in which the cardinals can speak among themselves informally – as one of the most important aspects of the gathering.

It was also announced today that the cardinals would hold a holy hour in St. Peter’s Basilica tomorrow afternoon, gathered around the seat of the chair of Peter. A wise gesture, I think, on behalf of the cardinals.2013-03-05-GTracy_22

Now that the resignation of Pope Benedict is behind us and the meetings of cardinals have begun, many seem to be focused on issues of influence, corruption and power brokering as the Church moves to elect its next leader. This public demonstration of prayerfulness by the cardinals could serve as a helpful reminder that, ultimately, the entire process of the congregations and conclave are principally centered around the cardinals asking the Holy Spirit to give them wisdom and discernment beyond their own natural capabilities.

See more photos at http://photos.pilotcatholicnews.com

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Pilot Dispatches from Rome: Cardinals begin meetings
Tue, 05 Mar 2013 01:20:00 +0000

 

By Gregory L. Tracy

This morning, Monday March 4 at 9:30 a.m., began the first in a series of meetings that will lead to the election of the next Pope.

During the meetings the Cardinals will discuss what they feel are the important issues and challenges facing the Church, set a date for the conclave and, perhaps more importantly, begin to get to know one another and form their choice of whom they will vote for in the upcoming conclave.2013-03-04-CardinalMeetings_GTracy_01

142 Cardinals, 103 of whom were Cardinal electors, met in two sessions during the day. The first from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the second from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The meeting was led by Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano, accompanied by the Cardinal Camerlengo Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., and the Secretary of the College, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri.

According to the Vatican, the meeting began with prayers to the Holy Spirit followed by technical instructions on how translations and voting procedures would be handled in the drawing by lots of the three assistants to the Camerlengo who will aid in the running of the Vatican in the coming days.

The bulk of the morning meeting, the Vatican said, were taken up by the swearing of the oath of secrecy. The first portion of the oath was recited by the entire body of Cardinals then, each cardinal step forward, placed his hand on book of Gospels at the foot of the crucifix and completed the oath.

In the afternoon, Father Raniero Cantalamessa led the group in spiritual exercises, the first of two occasions required by theApostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis.

Listen to the press conference here:

 

In the midday break between the two sessions Chicago Cardinal Francis George and Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl briefed the media on the day’s proceedings at the Pontifical North American College located on Rome’s Janiculum Hill overlooking the Vatican.  Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Chicago Cardinal Francis George speak to the media at the Pontifical North American College March 4, 2013 about the first meeting of General Congregations.  Pilot photo by Gregory L.  Tracy

Similar briefings with different U. S. Cardinals are being expected to be held after each days congregations until the conclave begins.

Cardinal George, who participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI began the briefing with an account of the morning session that coincided with the Vatican description.Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Chicago Cardinal Francis George speak to the media at the Pontifical North American College March 4, 2013 about the first meeting of General Congregations.  Pilot photo by Gregory L.  Tracy

Cardinal George said he was struck by the opening remarks by Cardinal Sodano.

“He said that the conclaves are held in the way they are to ensure that the Cardinals are free. That the Cardinals are free, free to stand before God and take that oath that we vote for the one we believe best suited for the office of the papacy. And are therefore free from outside pressures and hopefully free from internal pressures, too, because of the spiritual motivation that brings us there, said Cardinal George.

“The second thing he said was that the conclave should be prayerful,” he added

In his opening remarks, Cardinal Wuerl, who is taking part in his first conclave, said he found the solemnity of taking the oath of secrecy impressive.

“You take the oath promising to not reveal anything that goes on in conclave and you take it in your own name. You announce to who you are, put your hand on the gospel and swear that oath. It is very, very solemn. In the midst of 142 Cardinals doing that, there was, for me, a sense that we are beginning now an extraordinary moment in the life of the Church,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

But turning to more practical matters, Cardinal were also said he was looking forward to the “coffee breaks”. The informal encounters with the Cardinals will get to know each other and get a sense of who might be the next leader of the Church.Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Chicago Cardinal Francis George speak to the media at the Pontifical North American College March 4, 2013 about the first meeting of General Congregations.  Pilot photo by Gregory L.  Tracy

Despite repeated questions the media, the two Cardinals would not speculate on when the conclave might start.

In his opening remarks, Cardinal George said, “It was also said that we are to take the time necessary. Someone quoted St. Thomas of Aquinas where he said ‘you should be very slow in deliberation, and then very quick in decision-making.’ So, the decision-making is the conclave and the deliberating is the general congregations.”

He later added, “The only outside limit that is in the back of all our minds I think is Holy Week. We would like to be done before Holy Week starts and have a Pope and we can go back to our dioceses. I am sure all of us are thinking of that, but that has not been talked about that is just my opinion but I would assume others would be of that same mind.”Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Chicago Cardinal Francis George speak to the media at the Pontifical North American College March 4, 2013 about the first meeting of General Congregations.  Pilot photo by Gregory L.  Tracy

The Cardinals confirmed that a vote to determine a conclave date cannot be taken until all the Cardinal electors were present. According to the Vatican spokesman, 12 Cardinal electors are still on their way to Rome but are expected within the next two days.


Pilot dispatches from Rome: Reflections of Msgr. Connie McRae
Mon, 04 Mar 2013 01:13:00 +0000

By Gregory L. Tracy

This morning, Sunday, March 3, Cardinal O’Malley joined a number of the other American Cardinals in concelebrating a Mass at the Pontifical North American College.

The main celebrant and homilist was Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia,O.P., vice president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Archbishop DiNioa

Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy
Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

During the mass, about 70 seminarians studying at the North American College received the ministry of acolyte. Formerly one of the minor orders, the ministry of acolyte is one of the steps the seminarians take in advancing towards ordination.

Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy
Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Though one might think the most important aspect of the Mass was the moment when each of the candidates approached Archbishop DiNoia and was symbolically handed a liturgical vessel, a sign that the ministry of the acolyte is to assist the priest and deacon at Mass and to prepare the altar.Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Instead, for me, perhaps the most significant moment was the “calling of the candidates,” a rollcall of sorts in which the name and home diocese of each candidate is read aloud. In response, each candidate stands, announces he is present and bows. The significance was not in the solemnity or the symbolism. Rather it was in hearing the multitude of dioceses is represented among men receiving that ministry.Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Among the candidates were men from all over the United States, from New York to Oregon, from Texas to Minnesota – and even one each from our neighboring dioceses of Fall River and Worcester. It was a clear demonstration of the great resource that the North American College is for the Church in the United States.Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy
Cardinal Sean P.  O’Malley and celebrates Sunday Mass with other American Cardinals and  Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P. at the Pontifical North American College March 3, 2013. 
During the Mass about 50 seminarians —  including those from the Dioceses of Fall River and Worcester — received the order of acolyte, one of the steps in advancing towards the priesthood.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Also this evening was the usual gathering of Boston priests and seminarians who are stationed in Rome. They meet once a month at a local pizza restaurant to share stories and stay connected. There I caught up with Msgr. Cornelius “Connie” McCrae. Msgr. McRae was a long time pastor in Norwood before coming to Rome to serve as spiritual director at the North American College.

I asked Msgr. McRae to share his reflections on the resignation of Pope Benedict and the upcoming conclave. Here is what he had to say:

Msgr. Cornelius “Connie” McCrae. Msgr. McRae, spiritual director at the North American College

 

Gregory L. Tracy is managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. See more photos at photos.PilotCatholicNews.com


The Good Catholic Life Dispatches from Rome: Seminarians reflect
Sat, 02 Mar 2013 21:06:00 +0000

By Gregory L.  Tracy

Today I caught up with Deacon Tom McDonald and Kevin Staley-Joyce, two Boston seminarians studying at the Pontifical North American College.

The North American College, frequently called simply the NAC by those familiar with it, is located just up the hill from St. Peter’s square and is the home for seminarians and others from the US studying in Rome.

The college’s website describes it this way:

The prospect of living and studying in Rome offers an environment that is replete with unique opportunities that enhances the personal preparation of one who is aspiring to priesthood.

As an ancient capital of the world, the city of Rome gives evidence of the glory of a civilization whose influence once spanned the globe. To this day, the city maintains its quality of significant international prominence. Rightly called the Eternal City, Rome unceasingly testifies to the courage and dedication of saints such as Peter and Paul, Agnes and Lawrence, among many others, who nourished the faith of the early Church through their martyrdom. This patrimony of faith is preserved, fostered and advanced in the universal context of the See of the successor to Saint Peter.

The experience of separation from the people, places and things of home helps to lay bare deeper resources of self-confidence, calls for a more intimate reliance on the Lord, and forges strong bonds of support among faculty and students. The life of prayer and study in Rome, as well as the chance for periodic European travel, tend to deepen not only the seminarian’s theological education but also his vision of self, the Church and the world.

The individual seminarian, his home diocese, and indeed the Church in the United States, Australia, and Canada, benefit from such broadening opportunities. Our goal always remains to send home holy, faithful priests for service to the dioceses of North America, men who can be a bridge between the “new world” and the ancient See of St. Peter.

In 1884, the North American College was granted pontifical status placing it under the special patronage of the Apostolic See and the care of the Holy Father. The College, therefore, is the direct concern of the Congregation for Catholic Education and is under the immediate supervision of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Its Board of Governors is composed of one elected bishop from each of the fourteen episcopal regions of the United States. The priestly formation program of the College is governed by the principles and directives enunciated in the documents Optatam Totius of the Second Vatican Council, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, and the Program of Priestly Formation of the Bishops of the United States.

The seminary community is currently composed of students sponsored by dioceses from across the United States and Australia who devote themselves to personal formation for priestly ministry under the attentive guidance, supervision and evaluation of a formation faculty of priests and religious.

In this house of formation, seminarians deepen their awareness of the meaning and challenges of priesthood through their theological studies, through prayerful reflection on the revealed Word of God and the Tradition of the Church and its meaning for the modern world, as well as through a variety of pastoral service opportunities.

When I spoke to Deacon Tom and Kevin I asked them to reflect on it was like to be in Rome during this important time and if they had an opportunity to watch Pope Benedict the XVI’s departure from the Vatican yesterday as well as any other thoughts on his pontificate they would like to share.

Gregory L. Tracy is managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the archdiocese of Boston.


Sede vacante
Fri, 01 Mar 2013 03:11:00 +0000

Today was the moment that everyone knew was coming: The time when we would have a Pope Emeritus end of the Chair of Peter would be empty.

Early in the day, all the entire College of Cardinals met with Pope Benedict in the final audience to wish him well and thank them for his ministry.

At 10:15 AM the US Cardinals, who are staying at the Pontifical North American College in this time for the conclave, boarded the bus that would take them there.

Cardinals Roger Mahony, Daniel DiNardo, Justin Rigali and Donald Wuerl leave the Pontifical North American College in Rome on their way to a final meeting with Pope Benedict XVI February 28, 2013.
Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
Cardinals Donald Wuerl, Daniel DiNardo and Roger Mahony board a bus at Pontifical North American College in Rome on their way to a final meeting with Pope Benedict XVI February 28, 2013.
Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley leave the Pontifical North American College in Rome on their way to a final meeting with Pope Benedict XVI February 28, 2013.
Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

In the early afternoon, returning to the NAC for a chance to watch the departure of the helicopter that would take Pope Benedict into retirement from the unique vantage point of the school’s roof, I had an opportunity to watch as Cardinal Timothy Dolan conducted an interview with CNN.2012-02-28-GTracy_001_1

I must say, it was odd to be watching Cardinal Dolan on the screen in the media center and then be able to talk outside and see the interview taking place in the courtyard.

Shortly after 4 PM, we went up to the roof of the NAC where there were already a small number of seminarians who had staked out positions to view this historic event. That number would soon grow to scores as the time grew closer.2012-02-28-GTracy_002_1

Cardinal Dolan, undoubtedly knowing the wonderful view the roof had to offer, also joined us. He waded through the crowd, greeting priests and seminarians, seemingly unfazed by the swarm of reporters and news photographers that rush to follow him.2012-02-28-GTracy_003_12012-02-28-GTracy_004_1

Then at about 5 PM, as expected, the helicopter lifted off from the Vatican grounds eliciting cheers in waves from the seminarians. One held a sign that read “We’ll miss you” and others waved papal and American flags.The helicopter carrying Pope Benedict lifts off over Vatican City State Feb. 28.  Pilot photo/Gregory L. TracyNew York Cardinal Timothy Dolan watches as the helicopter carrying Pope Benedict lifts off from the Vatican grounds February 28.  Pilot photo/Gregory L. TracySeminarians at the Pontifical North American College wave to the helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI February 28.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  TracyThe helicopter carrying Pope Benedict passes the dome of St. Peter's Basilica February 28.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  TracyA seminarian at the Pontifical North American College waves an American flag as the helicopter carrying Pope Benedict passes by

As the papal helicopter faded into the distance heading towards Castel Gandolfo, a group of seminarians song wishing the Pope “Ad multos anos”!The helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI passes over The Pontifical North American College in Rome Feb. 28.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  Tracy

In the evening Cardinals O’Malley, George and DiNardo participated in a press conference organized by the USCCB. Sister Marian Walsh, the USCCB’s director of media, open the exchange asking each of the Cardinals their reaction to the Pope’s retirement and what they had said to him when they had an opportunity to greet him one by one at the morning gathering.2012-02-28-GTracy_018

For his part, Cardinal Sean said that “there was a sense of sadness saying farewell to this man who had been our spiritual father for these eight years”, but when he spoke to him, he assured the Pope that the people of Boston are praying for him, that they love him and are grateful for everything that he has done.2012-02-28-GTracy_025

At 8 PM, I passed the gates of St. Peter’s Square just at the moment the bells chimed in the hour, marking the moment that the Chair of Peter became vacant.People gather in St. Peter's Square at 8 PM Feb. 28, the time when the period of Sede Vacante began.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  TracyPeople gather in St. Peter's Square at 8 PM Feb. 28, the time when the Sede Vacante began.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  Tracy

Unlike the scene earlier in the afternoon with thousands of people waving cheering the scene at that moment was of only a few hundred in a somber vigil. Some held candles, others prayed but there was the kind of stillness and silence that one finds in significant moments, when words which seem to be just noise.2012-02-28-GTracy_0342012-02-28-GTracy_030A young woman holds a candle in St. Peter's Square as the period of the Sede Vacante begins Feb. 28.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  Tracy2012-02-28-GTracy_037

Most touching, perhaps, was that after a few minutes of the silence, slow measured applause began to spread through the crowd. No whistling or cheering, just soft handclapping. It seemed to be “bravo” to the Holy Father, whose job at that moment was done.