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from issue no. 03 - 2007

The expectations of the Christian people have not been disappointed

by Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi

I have had the grace to participate in the conclave during which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope:
an unforgettable experience that has confirmed in me the certainty that it is the Holy Spirit that guides the Church of Jesus according to the designs of the Father.
As priest, I knew Professor Ratzinger through his multiple and illuminating publications of grand theology. As bishop, I knew him directly having had him as a much desired and welcome guest as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith both in Foggia in 1985 and in Palermo in 2000. The enthusiasm of the faithful who packed both cathedrals because of the ability of the illustrious cardinal to express elevated and profound concepts in a language accessible to all was great. The evangelical simplicity of the cardinal struck in a particular way, obvious sign of his greatness.
Allow me a memory that regards my mother: she was still alive when Cardinal Ratzinger came to Foggia. In the evening, while my two sisters prepared supper, His Eminence preferred to be with the old Mamma in the corridor of the Episcopal palace, saying to her: «Let’s recite the rosary together».
The memory of the visit to Palermo must have remained alive in the cardinal, since he alluded to it in later meetings with me. I had confirmation of this during the conclave, when at lunch on the first day I happened to be at the same table as him.
The general congregations that preceded the conclave had given all the cardinals the opportunity to appreciate the exceptional organizational abilities of the Dean of the Sacred College, the transparent piety, the great doctrinal competence, the openness to dialogue, the kindness of behavior, the concern to listen, the cordiality of the fraternal friendship, the firmness in the decisions taken together and the humor of the refined intellectual, quick to surprise. And that explains the brevity of the conclave well enough.
In the mass for the election of the Roman Pontiff we had asked the Father to grant to His Church a Pastor according to His heart, acceptable to Him for the sanctity of his life, ready to illuminate his people with the truth of the Gospel and to edify it with the witness of his life.
As I wrote to the faithful of Palermo the day after the election, we had wanted a Pope who was a man of prayer, animated by a sincere yearning for holiness, a teacher of the faith, founded in Jesus Christ the only and universal Savior of men, based on deep theological knowledge and animated by a living spirit of contemplation. We wanted a pastor attentive to the problems of the Church and to the challenges of history, experienced both in direct pastoral action in the midst of people, and in the collegial structures of the Roman Curia; a pontiff who was a living image of the mercy of the Father, the gift of the Son, the strength of the Holy Spirit.
With the choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger we were heeded. His profound piety, his unbounded love for Christ Savior, the vastness of his culture, theological above all, acquired in long teaching service in prestigious academic centers, the pastoral experience in the demanding archdiocese of Munich, the service of collaboration given for more than twenty-five years to the Servant of God Pope John Paul II in the most delicate and important Department of the Holy See with the task «of promoting and of guarding the doctrine on the faith and behavior throughout the Catholic world» with evangelical strength and mildness, are salient features of the new Pope, who is entering into the hearts of the faithful ever more each day.
Non-believers also are receptive to the cultural fascination and moral prestige of Benedict XVI, who never tires of defending and proposing the truth of the Gospel in all its rigor and all its vigor, above all that regarding the dignity of the person, the inviolability of human life and the authenticity of the family founded on marriage, moved uniquely by a twofold and indivisible fidelity to God and man. Fidelity, for that matter, was already inscribed in his episcopal motto: «Collaborators with truth».
In the homily of the Mass pro eligendo Romano Pontifice presided over by him as Dean of the Sacred College, the exhortation to a clear, adult, mature faith, did not pass unnoticed, a faith that «does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelty», that does not let itself be carried here and there by every wind of doctrine «in the see-sawing logic of relativism that leaves as yardstick only the self and its desires», but a deep faith rooted in the friendship with Christ, «the measure of true humanism», that makes of truth in charity the fundamental formula of Christian existence.
Personally I lived the singular experience of the Conclave, which we might describe as the “birthday” of a new Pope, in the atmosphere of mystery that characterized it. It seemed to me as if the Church, moved by the Holy Spirit and through the collaboration of the cardinal electors, strove to give birth from its womb to the elect of the Father as Vicar of His Son and Pastor of the universal Church.
During the Holy Mass for the beginning of his mnistry, the pallium is imposed on Benedict XVI ,  24 April 2005

During the Holy Mass for the beginning of his mnistry, the pallium is imposed on Benedict XVI , 24 April 2005

I will never forget the emotion felt on entering the Sistine Chapel, dominated by Michelangelo’s Last Judgment , to the singing of the litanies of the saints, and the more evocative Veni Creator, the invocation to the Holy Spirit, to whom each of the cardinals was entrusted, especially when, after the oath on the Gospel, he marked the name of the candidate on the ballot placed in the urn to the loudly spoken words: «I call on Christ the Lord, Who will judge me, to witness that my vote is given to him whom, according to God, I consider should be elected». And the emotion was indescribable when at the fourth poll the person who should be elected according to God was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with the new name of Benedict.
In front of him, dressed in white, like all the other cardinals, I knelt down to express homage and obedience to the new Vicar of Christ by kissing the sacred ring: it came doubly spontaneous to me to say to him in faith: «Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord». But there was no time to say it, because in a gesture of paternal tenderness he embraced me, saying: «Here is Palermo, here is Sicily». In due reply it fell to me after supper, on the invitation of the cardinal chamberlain, to intone for the first time: «Oremus pro pontifice nostro Benedicto».
Two years of pontificate have amply demonstrated that the expectations of the Christian people have not only not been disappointed, but that Benedict XVI’s Magisterium, rich in light, and his ministry, fruitful with grace, have opened new horizons of hope not only for the Church but for all mankind.
The best wish that I can make our great Pastor on his eightieth birthday is that of the Church expressed in the centuries old and still current hymn: «Dominus conservet eum et vivificet eum et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius».

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