ROME DIARY, March 8, 2013
Saturday, March 09, 2013

March 8, 2013

These are damp, strangely quiet days in Rome. They lack the drama and the massive show of humanity that accompanied the 2005 passing of John Paul the Second, which will inevitably impact the result of this Conclave. I can remember those emotional days eight years agodays when it felt as if the whole Church might collapse into tears. I can remember fighting to get to our broadcast location on many mornings due to the crush of young people packing the streets leading to the Vatican. It seemed the whole world had come to bid a personal farewell to John Paul the Great (as Fr. Neuhaus would call him)and indeed they had.

On the last day of the public viewing of John Pauls body I recall being overcome by sadness. He was the only Pope I could remember, the Pope of my childhood and my adulthood. Kneeling next to his body, which seemed so much smaller than I remembered, tears spilled into my hands. It was hardly a unique reaction in the grand basilica that day, but it still felt as if a piece of my heart had been taken from me. Having known the Pope personally over many years only added to my sense of griefand I was not alone.

The spectacle of that mourning period--the crowds flowing into St. Peters at all hours, the singing in the streets, the impromptu doorway confessions up and down the Via Della Conciliazione--pulled everyone into its sway.

Lacking the soulful centrifugal force of a Popes passing, the lead up to the Conclave of 2013 pivoted directly to the vetting of candidates and forming of alliances. There was the Cardinals momentary public vespers service at St. Peters on March 6th which provided an important spiritual image for the Cardinals. As my co-host on our coverage, Father Gerald Murray opined, It is a powerful symbol to see powerful men on their knees in prayer. Indeed. But it was a prayerful moment that did not extend much beyond St. Peters. And even though Catholics around the world were joining them in that moment, the Cardinals could not see the faithful as they could in 2005. The presence of those people praying in the streets and the powerful funeral Mass for JPII prepared the Cardinals for that Conclave.... For more go to

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