Cardinal Opens Up Regarding Conclave

Calls Experience "Overwhelming"

BARCELONA, Spain, MAY 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The retired archbishop of Barcelona spoke about the "overwhelming" experience of participating in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI, at a dinner organized by e-christians.

Respecting the oath of secrecy, Cardinal Ricard María Carles, 78, spoke to the Spanish organization about everything from the pre-conclave meetings to the election of the new Pope.

The first day of the general congregations was dedicated to familiarizing the cardinals with logistical issues, such as seating arrangements and the doors which they should use, and even the names of the doors.

Carindal Carles commented that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of the College of Cardinals, noted "in an amusing tone: 'Its funny: after being here 20 years, now I find out the name of the door we come through.'"

The general congregations served to help the cardinals get to know one another. Each cardinal was given seven minutes to address the congregation, expressing "our views on the world and the Church," said the cardinal.

There were cardinals "of all races, countries, cultures, explaining the problems and positive things in their countries and Churches," he continued.

During those days, "we did not want to talk about the profile of the new Pope. We talked about the Church. To experience this was a grace from God," admitted Cardinal Carles.

"I never thought I would live the experience of a conclave. We cardinals were conscious that those 115 men had to choose, with the Holy Spirit, the one who would govern 1.1 billion Catholics," said the retired archbishop.

Arriving in the Sistine Chapel and taking the oath was "overwhelming," he said.

Cardinal Carles continued: "And not just on the first day, when entering the conclave, which was seen on television. Every morning and afternoon, with our vote in hand, when going up to the altar, and seeing the Christ of the Last Judgment surrounded by the Sistine Chapel ... we said the formula: 'I swear before this Christ, who will judge me!'

"When one is there, there is no place for 'lobbies,' or pressure groups, or the likes, or any of that!

"What you see, when 115 persons of different races and cultures are in agreement on the fourth ballot, is that the Holy Spirit acts. One did not vote for someone one liked, or of a similar culture; it was the Spirit."

The cardinal said that it was exactly 5:30 p.m. on April 19 when the two-thirds were reached – the majority necessary for the valid election of the Pope.

"I had on the table this very watch which I wear and I looked at the time: exactly 5:30 p.m. At once, there was applause, when the recounting resulted in the two-thirds. The recounting was not yet over, and the inspectors asked for silence, and patience, until all the votes were counted," he said.

Cardinal Carles spoke on how Cardinal Ratzinger accepted his election as Pope. Normally, it is the dean of the College of Cardinals who asks if the Pope-elect accepts, but in this case the dean and the elected were the same person.

The Spanish prelate said that the vice dean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, put the question to Cardinal Ratzinger.

And Ratzinger replied in Latin: "Although unworthy, I accept out of obedience."

"Later, when he chose his name, the new Pope spoke spontaneously in Latin, explaining why he chose Benedict XVI: because of his admiration for Benedict XV, whom he regarded as a teacher," Cardinal Carles said.

The Spanish cardinal spoke about the reaction of Cardinal Meisner of Cologne.

Cardinal Carles said that he saw the German cardinal, "a very, very serious man," "crying like a child, and then blowing his nose like a child, overwhelmed" when he saw Benedict XVI for the first time dressed in white.

"It was obvious he loved his friend," said the retired archbishop.

"I have known the Pope for 35 years (he has the intelligence of 12 professors and is as pious as a child on the day of his First Communion) and we are friends," said Cardinal Meisner in an interview published Wednesday in the Spanish newspaper La Razon.

"When I saw that at 78, an age when others are retired, he was to take charge of such a great mission and he did so with such delight and intelligence, I was inwardly overwhelmed and the tears flowed. I am a man and not a machine. And a man with a heart can weep," said Cardinal Meisner.

As archbishop of Cologne, he will host the 20th World Youth Day, which will be attended by Benedict XVI. During the round of congratulations, Cardinal Meisner tried to invite the new Pope to this event, but was too overwhelmed at the time to do so.

"I was the first German cardinal who promised fidelity to the Pope. I wanted to say to him: 'Holy Father, welcome to Cologne,' but I was so overwhelmed, I couldn't say anything. Then the Holy Father said to me: 'I am going to Cologne and I am happy to go to Cologne.' I did not need to invite him. He invited himself, and rightly so, because it is his World Youth Day, not mine."

According to Cardinal Carles, when the moment came to announce the new Pope to the world, "the proto-deacon, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, who is Chilean, of serious demeanor but very good character, explained to us later that he paused deliberately at length when pronouncing the 'Habemus Papam,' and also when repeating twice 'the Most Eminent.' It was exactly what he wanted to do."

"When we returned to St. Martha's residence [which housed the electors during the conclave] after the elections, the nuns and service staff applauded us as if we had won something," he recalled.

"The Holy Father Benedict XVI greeted everyone, and the nuns and female staff kissed his hand, but he kissed them on the cheek. And pictures were taken kissing the Pope! This is the one they call 'the great inquisitor,'" said Cardinal Carles.