The new Holy Father, Benedict XVI, will be ‘a pope of surprises’, Cardinal Williams said as he returned from Rome and his first conclave.
‘He is not√¢ÀÜ≈°√¢‚Ä∞¬•he could not possibly be√¢ÀÜ≈°√¢‚Ä∞¬•another John Paul II, but like his predecessor, Benedict XVI will surely prove a holy pope, a pope faithful to Christ’s teaching, a pope willing to lead the Church in the direction set by the Second Vatican Council, a listening pope, a pope the youth of the Church will warm to, a pope of compassion, a peacemaker, and a reconciler, concerned for social justice and for closer relationships with other Churches and other faiths,’ Cardinal Williams said.
He said he was still coming to terms with all he had experienced during ‘those remarkable days’ in Rome.
On his arrival in Rome just two days after the death of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Williams was immediately caught up in a succession of meetings of the College of Cardinals.
These were to plan the funeral and the conclave, to decide on administration matters while the conclave was in progress, and to discuss the qualities required in a pope and the challenges he would face as he led the Church further into the third millennium.
The series of 12 meetings continued for two full weeks, interrupted only by the funeral. Eight futher Masses were celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica after the Holy Father’s death marking the novendiale, the nine-day period of mourning.
After the votive Mass for the election of a Roman pontiff, 15 days after the Holy Father’s death, the cardinals moved into the Casa Santa Marta, built specially for cardinals to stay in during a conclave, though used for clergy working in the Curia and visiting bishops and priests.
Then the cardinals went into the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave.
After singing and praying together, the cardinals listened to a meditation on their responsibilities as electors and the doors were locked.
In the first ballot, Cardinal Williams was 11th.
‘I approached the altar holding the folded ballot paper for all to see, placed it on a paten, pronounced a further oath (I testify before Christ the Lord who is my judge that I have given my vote to the one who before God I consider should be elected) and then tipped the ballot into the urn.
‘The ballots were counted, recorded by scrutineers chosen by lot, checked by three further scrutineers, likewise chosen by lot, and the results announced.’
This procedure was followed three more times before Cardinal Ratzinger was announced.
Cardinal Williams is now having a well earned rest to meditate on his experiences.