German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Named New Pope

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Named New Pope

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the new pope on Tuesday, April 19, 2005 in Rome. Ratzinger, 78, was named Pope Benedict XVI and is the 265th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

Roman Catholic cardinals elected Ratzinger on just the second day of the conclave to find a successor to Pope John Paul II. Ratzinger, who became a cardinal in 1977, has served for more than two decades as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Ratzinger is the first German pope since the 11th century.

* Huge Ovation as Ratzinger Elected Pope (ABC News Online)
* Germany's Cardinal Ratzinger Elected Pope (

Saint Mary's College Experts Offer Insights into Papal Elections and Transition

* Election of Benedict XVI
* The Sistine Chapel
* The Conclave Begins
* Election Places
* Missa Exsequialis (Funeral Mass)
* Novendiale, or "Nine Day" Period of Prayers for the Deceased
* Vatican Caretakers in the Period of the Empty Chair
* The Funeral Procession at Saint Peter's Basilica
* Upon Pope John Paul II's Death on Saturday, April 2, 2005
* The Papacy of John Paul II: An Appreciation
* Saint Mary's Papal Experts

Election of Benedict XVI
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on the second day of the conclave, April 19, 2005. He took the name of Benedict and will be known as Pope Benedict XVI. The pope was born in the town of Marktl am Inn, in the diocese of Passau and state of Bavaria, on April 16, 1927. His 78th birthday was three days before his election. He became a priest on June 29, 1951, and, after a ministry as a theologian and professor at Tuebingen University, was elected the Archbishop of Munich and Freising on March 25, 1977. His consecration as archbishop was on May 28,1977. Pope Paul VI appointed him a cardinal on June 27, 1977. Pope John Paul II appointed him Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981. On 15 February 1982 he renounced the office of Archbishop of Munich and Freising. In 1993, the pope named him Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, a title which he kept up until the time of his election as pope. In 2002, he added the title of Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, upon his election as Dean of the College of Cardinals.

The new Pope's first words are given here in a translation by BBC News.

"Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the Lord's vineyard. The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the resurrected Lord, we go on with his help. He is going to help us and Mary will be on our side. Thank you."

After these words the Pope imparted a blessing upon the crowd gathered to greet him.

The name of the Pope is significant. While we wait for some explanation from the new pontiff about why he chose Benedict as his name, we are entitled by the weight of history to take the name as his first message to the Church and to look for meaning and prior associations. The name, as one can tell, has been a popular one. It ranks second the number of times that it has been used (John - 23; Benedict - 16; Gregory - 16; Clement - 14; Innocent - 13; Leo - 13; Pius - 12; Stephen - 10). One can only speculate at the meaning of the name for the new pontiff. It may be a sign of a devotion to Saint Benedict who was not a Pope but the author of the monastic Rule that became the norm for Latin monasticism in the West. The Benedictine monks and nuns were great missionaries during the Dark Ages and were chiefly responsible for the conversion of the Germans to Christianity. It may also be that the new Pope wished to associate himself with the memory of Pope Benedict XV, a man of peace who guided the Church during the difficult time of the First World War.

There have been German Popes before Benedict XVI, but not since the 11th century. The most recent German Pope was Victor II (Gebhard of Dollnstein-Hirschberg, 1055-1057), and immediately before him, Saint Pope Leo IX (Bruno of Egisheim, 1049-1054), the great papal saint of the eleventh century, whose feast day is April 19, the very day that the Cardinals elected Pope Benedict XVI.

The rules for the election of a pontiff call for two more major events. The first is the Inauguration of the Ministry of the Supreme Pastor and the second is the Pope's taking possession of the Patriarchal Archbasilica of the Lateran (Saint John Lateran).

The Sistine Chapel
By Tom Poundstone, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

The Sistine Chapel is one of the world's best known and most amazing works of art. The way most of us get to see it is with a large crowd after winding our way down what seems like at least a mile of Vatican Museum hallways. Once we make it there, our necks are quickly strained from looking at the ceiling 68 feet above us, at least until we can secure one of the coveted bench seats along the wall. And while we are there, our contemplation is regularly interrupted by requests to be silent and multi-lingual reminders not to take photographs. We are there fifteen minutes, maybe thirty at tops.

The cardinals will be having a very different experience. They will be in the room for hours, they will each have their own seats, and as they spend hours at a time in the Sistine Chapel in silence, they will have plenty of time to contemplate the theological message of Michelangelo's work.

In 2003, Pope John Paul II published a series of poems, one of which is his reflections on theology of the Sistine Chapel: "The Roman Triptych." In an epilogue to the poem, the pope spoke of his prayerful reflections while being in that room for the two conclaves of 1978 as he, as a cardinal, sat enfolded in Michelangelo's colors -- colors which will be so much brighter now in 2005 thanks to the restoration which took place in John Paul' reign. He spoke of the biblical story waiting for its image which was definitively supplied by Michelangelo. He spoke of cardinals from ages past and cardinals after his death needing to listen to and learn from Michelangelo as they sit in conclave between Michelangelo's fresco Day of Creation on the ceiling and Michelangelo's fresco of Day of Judgment on the far wall. He spoke of praying that the Ancient of Days who sees all will point out whom the cardinals should select. He spoke of listening to the word of the Lord, "You are Peter. To you I will give the keys of the Kingdom."

In doing this, the Pope in his poem also adds a new and deeper twist to the etymology of the word "conclave." The term literally means "with key." We take it as a reference to the cardinals meeting in a locked room, virtually an imprisonment, where they could not leave until they had reached a verdict. Initial rules even focused on their diet. Quite literally after a few days they were shifted to a diet of bread and water to make them less comfortable. They were being forced to seek a consensus. Today as we hear of sweeps to detect listening devices and the banning cell phones, we are also likely to think of the conclave as locking everyone else out, keeping secrecy, and protecting the cardinals from outside influences.

Pope John Paul II took the two roots of "con-clave" in another direction. He sees it in terms of the college's mission, a joint concern which the cardinals as a community have for the securing the legacy of the keys of the Kingdom.

The time which the cardinals spend in the Sistine Chapel is a time for prayer and voting in silence. There are no campaign speeches of lobbying there. One at a time, each cardinal approaches the altar with his folded ballot held up for all to see. Before that alter the cardinal kneels briefly in prayer.

Immediately behind that altar is the magnificent Last Judgment. At least when the Sistine Chapel is open to the public, there is a simple crucifix on the altar, behind which and at the same elevation one can see the cave-like mouth of Hell. It is before this scene that the cardinal rises and swears, "I call as my witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected."

The Conclave Begins
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

On April 18, 2005, the cardinal electors will celebrate 'The Mass for Electing a Roman Pontiff' in the Basilica of Saint Peter. Cardinal Ratzinger, as Dean of the College of Cardinals, will preside. The invitation to attend the mass is given to the lay faithful and the entire people of God who are present in Rome. The opening prayer of the mass is our prayer and the prayer of all who long for God to give the Church a worthy pastor as pope.

"God, Eternal Pastor,
You who govern Your flock with constant protection,
In your immense mercy, grant to your Church a pastor
Who will be pleasing to you by his holiness,
And will lead us with vigilant concern."

In the afternoon, the Cardinal electors will process into the Sistine Chapel to swear their oath and to begin the election. This will be the second oath that the electors have taken since the death of the pope. By this oath they renew their commitment to observe the necessary secrecy of the conclave and add their word to preserve the Petrine office should they be elected as pontiff. The oath begins in the following manner.

"We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum [Petrine office] of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See."

The Cardinals will be joined in the conclave by a number of clerical and lay attendants, all of whom swore an oath of secrecy on April 15. The list of oath-takers is comprehensive, including even elevator operators. Among the more essential attendants are confessors, physicians, and nurses.

Two Cardinals, Jaime Sin of the Philippines and Adolfo Suarez Rivera of Mexico, are too sick to travel to Rome, so the number of Cardinal electors will be 115, which means that 77 votes will be needed to elect a pope. There may be one ballot Monday afternoon or the electors may decide to wait until Tuesday to begin the voting. Each day of the conclave the Vatican as well as churches everywhere in the world will offer the mass for a successful election.

Election Places
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

The election will take place in the Sistine Chapel which is part of the complex of buildings just to the right of the Basilica of Saint Peter. Pope John Paul II's stated reason for continuing to use the Sistine Chapel was that in there "everything is conducive to an awareness of the presence of God, in whose sight each person will one day be judged," which is a lovely tribute to the artistic and religious genius of Michelangelo and his predecessors who designed and decorated the chapel. The Last Judgment adorns the western wall of the chapel and his scenes from Genesis the ceiling. The Cardinals can also admire Perugino's fresco of Christ commissioning Saint Peter.

The electors will commute from a Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Martae, to the Sistine Chapel. The old custom of locking the electors inside the papal palace has been abolished. Each elector is under pain of excommunication to preserve the secrecy of the election and so must go without media and any electronic means of communication. Preserving the election from the efforts of outsiders wanting to the gain inside information is the work of the Particular Congregation of Cardinals and Vatican technicians.

During the Conclave the Cardinals will have the use of the Pauline Chapel for prayer and liturgy. The Pauline Chapel is close to the Sistine Chapel and linked by way of the Sala Regia. One can see the doors of the Pauline Chapel on the south side of the Sala Regia and the doors of the Sistine Chapel on its west side. Inside the Pauline Chapel are two large frescoes by Michelangelo, one of the martyrdom of Saint Peter and the other of the call of Saint Paul. It is well to remember that the pope is the successor to both apostles who gave their final witness to Christ in Rome and so helped found the Church there. To this day every bishop of the world goes to Rome every five years in order to make his visit ad limina apostolorum (to the thresholds of the apostles).

Missa Exsequialis (Funeral Mass)
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

The papal funeral mass will follow rubrics revised under Pope John Paul II and prepared by Bishop Piero Marini, Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. The celebrant's vestments will be red, the same color worn by the body of the pope. Red is the color of mass vestments on Pentecost Sunday and it is worn for the papal funeral in order to remember that the pope has an apostolic ministry linked directly to the descent of the Holy Spirit, which first occured as tongues as of fire. The recollection of Pentecost will continue by diverse ways in the preparations and instructions for the upcoming papal election.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will preside at the liturgy. He will be assisted by the Cardinals and Eastern Patriarchs. Also assisting will be Clerics of the Papal Chapel, Archbishops, and Bishops, of Latin and Eastern rites, Abbots and Religious Priests, Papal Prelates, Papal Chaplains, and Pastors of Roman parishes.

The readings of the Mass are from the Acts of the Apostles (10:34-43), the Letter to the Philippians (3, 20-4, 1), and the Gospel of John (21:15-19). The Gospel reading is the resurrection narrative in which Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him and three times charges him to "To feed my sheep."

The parts of the liturgy made special for this funeral are the international languages used, Spanish, English, French, Swahili, Tagalog, Polish, German, and Portugese and the addition of Saint Maximilian Kolbe to the Litany of Martyrs and Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska to the Litany of Saints during the Final Commendation.

A message of church unity is struck at the final blessing and commendation of the body when a patriarch of the Eastern Church offers a supplication for the repose of the soul of John Paul, who is remembered as bishop and Roman pope.

After the mass, the body of the pope is moved to his tomb in the papal crypt. The group attending the body is made of the following.

* Cardinal Camerlengo
* The Heads of the Orders of Cardinals
* Cardinal Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica
* The Cardinal Former Secretary of State
* Cardinal Vicar of Rome
* The Substitute of the Secretary of State
* The Prefect of the Papal Household
* The Vice-Camerlengo
* Representatives of the Canons of the Basilica of Saint Peter
* The Family of the Late Pontiff

Novendiale, or "Nine Day" Period of Prayers for the Deceased
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

"After the death of the Roman Pontiff, the Cardinals will celebrate the funeral rites for the repose of his soul for nine consecutive days." These are the instructions of John Paul II for the period immediately following the death of the pope. The length of nine days is a traditional period of mourning that the Roman Catholic Church borrowed from ancient Roman religion. In ancient Rome, the Novendiale began after the burial, as it still does for families in various Latin cultures (e.g., in Spanish, Novena). The papal rites call for the period to begin similarly after the funeral mass and burial, according to De funere summi pontificis (1978).** The funeral mass after which the pope's body will be buried will be celebrated Friday, the sixth or last day allowed for the burial. Nine more consecutive days of formal masses and prayers for the pontiff would constitute the Novendiale, after which the papal electors will prepare to enter the conclave on April 18.

The masses that are part of the Novendiale are celebrated by various bodies within the Vatican according to the following schedule:

* First day: by the papal chapel.
* Second day: by the papal chapel.
* Third day: by the papal chapel.
* Fourth day: by the clergy of Rome.
* Fifth day: by the clerical chapters of the patriarchal basilicas.
* Sixth day: by the officials of the Roman Curia.
* Seventh day: by the religious orders and congregations.
* Eighth day: by the papal chapel.
* Ninth day: by the papal chapel.

**This as well as other arrangements are subject to change given the publication today of a new Ordo exsequiarum summi pontificis.

Vatican Caretakers in the Period of the Empty Chair
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

The period between the death of one pope and the election of the next is known as "sede vacante" ("the chair being vacant"). Pope John Paul II explained the state of affairs during this time in his instructions for the next conclave. The opening sentences of each of the first two paragraphs of chapter one of the apostolic constitution, "On the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff (Universi Dominici Gregis)," sum up this period very well:

"During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the College of Cardinals has no power or jurisdiction in matters which pertain to the Supreme Pontiff during his lifetime or in the exercise of his office; such matters are to be reserved completely and exclusively to the future Pope."

"During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the government of the Church is entrusted to the College of Cardinals solely for the dispatch of ordinary business and of matters which cannot be postponed, and for the preparation of everything necessary for the election of the new Pope."

The "sede vacante" is normally of brief duration and certainly an intense moment for the Vatican State offices, in particular for the cardinals who must execute as best they can the carefully laid out instructions for the burial of one pope and the election of the next and for the hundreds of Vatican employees who labor in the midst of a great press of humanity bearing down upon Saint Peter's. It is a much gentler crowd these days, though, which makes its way to the Vatican. Once upon a time, a Roman mob would ransack with great abandon the papal palace to help itself to the earthly possessions of the late pontiff. Today the crowds want only to view the body of the dead pope.

The College of Cardinals begins its work in all haste. The dean of the college (Joseph Ratzinger) calls the cardinals together into General Congregations everyday of the "sede vacante" and here the major decisions regarding the tasks at hand are decided. During the first General Congregation the cardinals elect a member from each of the three orders of cardinals (bishop, priest and deacon) to assist the Camerlengo (Eduardo Martinez Somalo). This foursome is called a Particular Congregation and its charge is to decide upon questions of lesser importance which arise daily and occasionally. After three days a General Congregation elects another three cardinals to take the place of the Camerlengo's assistants of the first Particular Congregation.

During the first few General Congregations the cardinals present listen to the papal instructions regarding the vacancy of the see and swear an oath to abide by the prescriptions. Cardinals who arrive at the Vatican City after the first few days, in turn, receive the instructions and swear the oath. The oath that the cardinals swear is the following.

"We, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, of the Order of Bishops, of Priests and of Deacons, promise, pledge, and swear, as a body and individually, to observe exactly and faithfully all the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis' of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, and to maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy. I, N. Cardinal N., so promise, pledge and swear. So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I now touch with my hand."

In all General and Particular Congregations, the Cardinals are to wear their black cassocks with piping, red sash, pectoral cross, skull-cap, and ring.

The Funeral Procession at Saint Peter's Basilica
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

On Monday, April 4, 2005, the pope's body is brought in procession to the basilica where it is formally set out for viewing. This is a time for the church and the world to pray together for the repose of the soul of the pontiff. The whole world mourns the death of the pope and the church prays for the whole world. Even more, the funeral rites become the occasion for everyone to remember and pray together for our common humanity and our common ideals of renewal, justice, peace, and fraternity.

A procession of the congregation of cardinals, with the cardinal celebrant, a deacon, and ministers, all according to the instructions of the Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, lead the body of the pope to the basilica. The schola cantorum sing antiphons and psalms (Psalm 23, Psalm 51, Psalm 63, 2-9, Psalm 130, Canticle of Mary, Canticle of Simeon, and Canticle of Zachariah) during the procession.

At the basilica of Saint Peter the cantors begin the litany of the saints. It is appropriate to add the names of any saints canonized by this pope to the litany at the proper places. It will be interesting to listen for what provisions are made this time because of the unforeseen number of saints proclaimed by Pope John Paul II.

The body of the pope is placed at the Confessio of Saint Peter, with the head facing the people, though the cardinals meeting in general congregation may make changes to the arrangements. The body is sprinkled and incensed. Then comes the reading of the Gospel according to John, 14, 11-6 (many mansions). After the Gospel, prayers are offered for the pope, the Church, the world, and the congregation gathered together at prayer. Finally those gathered pray the Our Father.

Masses and prayers follow over the remaining days of the nine-day mourning period. The four prayers offered at the sprinkling of the body are worthy of note.

1. For Pope John Paul II, may the Prince of pastors who lives always to intercede for us, kindly welcome him, we pray to the Lord.

2. For the Holy Church of God, as faithful to the duty it believes itself to have, may it go forward joined to the human family, like the yeast of human society meant for renewal in Christ, we pray to the Lord.

3. For the people of the united nations, as they nurture wished-for justice without intermission, may they form one family in peace, and join each other always in a fraternal spirit, let us pray to the Lord.

4. For us gathered here, as we now come together for the celebration of the sacred mysteries, may we all be called at length by Christ into his glorious kingdom, we pray to the Lord.

Upon Pope John Paul II's Death on Saturday, April 2, 2005
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

It is appropriate that we pause to pray for the repose of the soul of the pontiff and by so doing join with the entire church spread throughout the world. The Vatican has already announced that the body of the pope will be moved to the Basilica of Saint Peter on Monday. In the meantime, the papal household will have the opportunity to visit the remains and offer prayers both privately and also according to the Ordo Exsequiarum Romani Pontificis (The Funeral Rites of the Roman Pontiff).

By now the papal attendants have dressed the body of the pope in red liturgical vestments, just like the pope would have worn at mass. They have placed a miter on his head and have moved his body for viewing to a formal reception hall within the palace, perhaps the Sistine Chapel.

The cardinals present at the viewing recite Psalm 23 and offer a very touching prayer which is, in part, "Lord, we humbly commend to you your servant our pope, whom you accompanied always with immense love. May you now command that he enter into eternal peace, freed from every evil."

The penitentiaries of the Vatican Basilica then take turns watching the body and praying the Office of the Dead from the Liturgy of the Hours. For a lengthy vigil, the priests recite a series of readings, among which is a passage from the dogmatic constitution on the church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes (18 & 22). The passage is interesting for the hope of salvation it extends to all, Christians and non-Christians alike. "[Eternal life] is valid not only for the faithful of Christ, but also for all men and women of good will in whose heart grace is working in an invisible manner." In addition, those keeping vigil recite the canticles of Anna, Tobias, and Isaiah, the Gospel of Mark, 16:1-20, the seven penitential psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 143: 1-11), and the fifteen gradual psalms (120-134).

This long Saturday night and Sunday is a time for the members of the papal household and the cardinals to say their final private prayers together before they give the mortal remains of the pontiff to the Roman church and world for memorial and Christian burial.

The Papacy of John Paul II: An Appreciation
By Brother Charles Hilken, Professor of History

Elected on October 16, 1978, John Paul II was the 264th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He celebrated the solemn inauguration of his ministry as universal pastor of the Church on October 22, 1978. His pontificate was the second longest in history, behind Blessed Pius IX (1844-1878). In many ways the pontificate of John Paul II mirrors very closely that of Leo XIII (1878-1903), who served for more than a quarter decade at the end of the century, who led the church and the world -- by the use of his pen -- in facing the challenges and promises of contemporary society, and who garnered the universal respect of the people and leaders of the world. At the passing of John Paul II, it is good to recollect the deeds of this pontiff that will no doubt withstand the erosive power of time.

John Paul II was the first Polish pope and the first pope from beyond Italy since the Reformation. He was a Catholic who lived under the foreign domination of Nazi Germany and then in a totalitarian Communist state hostile to religion. As pope he would speak out against all political and social structures that perpetuate the suffering and oppression of peoples. His public support for Solidarity, the Polish Independent Syndicate, in the 1980s, and call for prayers for the Polish nation in its state of emergency, added legitimacy and strength to Solidarity which eventually gained its legal recognition from the Polish government in 1989.

His social justice teachings are best found in his encyclical, On Social Concern (1987). A few years before that great encyclical, the Vatican issued Instructions on Certain Aspects of Theology of Liberation (1984), which described the boundaries between Christian social teaching and Marxist social agenda. With respect to social advocacy, the pope urged the Christian faithful to side always with the discounted and poor, but cautioned against political reforms, as well as market capitalism, when their proponents operated unchecked by Gospel imperatives.

Perhaps the single most historic activity by John Paul II was his tireless travel to the Roman Catholic Church outside the borders of Italy. He made 104 apostolic voyages in which he visited 131 countries and the United Nations. Many countries (37) he visited more than once and his native Poland eight times. The nation-states visited by the pope during his ministry are given here in chronological order according to his first visit and the number of visits is given parenthetically.

Apostolic Voyages to Dominican Republic (3), Mexico (6), Poland (8), Ireland, The United States (6), The United Nations, Turkey, Zaire (2), Republic of the Congo, Kenya (3), Ghana, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast (2), France (7), Brasil (4), Germany (4), Pakistan, Philippines (2), Guam, Japan, Nigeria (2), Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal (4), Great Britain, Argentina (2), Switzerland (4), Republic of San Marino, Spain (6), Costa Rica, Nicaragua (2), Panama, El Salvador (2), Guatemala (3), Honduras, Belize, Haiti, Austria (3), Korea (2), Papua New Guinea (2), Solomon Islands, Thailand, Canada (3), Puerto Rico, Venezuela (2), Ecuador, Peru(2), Trinidad, Tobago, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Togo, Cameroon (2), Republic of Central Africa, Morocco, Liechtenstein, India (2), Colombia, Santa Lucia, Bangladesh, Singapore, Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Australia (2), Seychelles, Uruguay (2), Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Madagascar, La Réunion, Zambia, Malawi, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Mauritius, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Czech Republic (3), Slovak Republic (3), Curaçao, Malta (2), Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Yamoussoukro, Hungary (2), Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Angola, São Tomé, Principe, Benin, Uganda, Sudan, Albania, Jamaica, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia (3), Sri Lanka, Belgium, South Africa, Tunisia, Slovenia (2), Bosnia-Herzegovina (2), Lebanon, Cuba, Romania, Georgia, Israel – (2), Greece, Syria, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria.

On the political front during the pontificate of John Paul II, the Vatican established diplomatic relations with the United States of America (1984) and negotiated a Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (2000). Not surprisingly, the pope was a constant advocate for peace, traveling to Assisi three times in order to pray with ecumenical leaders for world and European peace, and speaking out prophetically against America's military response to terrorism and its invasion of Iraq.

The turn of the third Christian millennium provided the occasion for Pope John Paul II to lead the Christian Church in an examination of conscience in order to foster a deeper conversion of heart to the Gospel, awaken a new evangelization and, establish a pathway to unity. Under the pope's guidance the International Theological Commission published the document, Memory and Reconciliation: the Church and the Faults of the Past (March 7, 2000). The papal identification of the historical faults of Christianity was as controversial as it was novel. In the same spirit of a universal Christian rededication to the person of Christ, the pope called two Holy Years; the first, the Jubilee Year of Redemption, in 1983, and the second, the Jubilee year of 2000.

The contributions of John Paul II to doctrine and practice have been considerable. His fourteen encyclicals now become part of the tradition of the church. Perhaps more immediate in their impact on the lives of the faithful are the revised Code of Canon Law (1983), the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches (1990), the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), and the revised Roman Martyrology (2001). Exceptionally noteworthy in the realm of personal devotion and popular prayer were the pope's constant recourse to Mary, the Mother of God, and his dedication of the Church and the world to her protection, on more than one occasion. In 2002, he gave to the church a new set of mysteries by which to pray the rosary. The new luminous mysteries or mysteries of light are the Baptism in the Jordan, the Wedding of Cana, the Announcement of the Kingdom of God, the Transfiguration, and the Eucharist.

The staggering number of canonizations and beatifications (more than a thousand) was unprecedented in the history of the Church. Of special and universal note were the canonization of Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, and Padre Pio, and the beatification of Francesco and Giacinta Marto, Pius IX, John XXIII, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Among the many patrons proclaimed by the pope, there are Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs, as co-patrons of Europe with Benedict, Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, and Edith Stein. In 1997, the pope named Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church.

Of greatest import to ecumenism, the pope issued joint declarations with Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople (1987) and Bartholomew I of Constantinople (2004) and a joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the World Lutheran Federation (1999). As a gesture of respect for the dignity of Greek patriarchate the Vatican returned the relics of Saints John Chrysostum and Gregory Nazianzen to Patriarch Bartholomew I in 2004.

The pope was a tireless advocate for unity and renewal within Roman Catholicism and so brought about the resolution of the schism with the followers of Monsignor Lefebvre in 1988, and welcomed in person the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities at Saint Peter's Square in 1998. In 2002, he established a new ecclesiastical province and four dioceses in the Russian Federation.

John Paul II was especially interested in and supportive of the Christian study of science, as was in evidence by his summer gatherings of leading philosophers and scientists at Castel Gandolfo. One of the earliest tasks of his pontificate was the reexamination of the Galileo case (1979-1984), leading to the full and official reversal of the actions taken against Galileo. In 1986, in a speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the pope acknowledged that theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis and taught at the same time the separation of two orders of knowledge, the scientific and the spiritual. The papacy entered the new era of information technology in 1997 when the pope launched the Holy See Internet Site.

Finally, as patron of the monuments of Christian Rome, the pope restored the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and the façade of Saint Peter's Basilica.

The papacy of John Paul II began and ended with humble awareness of the presence of Christ. When asked to accept the election to the papacy, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla replied, "With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and of the Church, in spite of the great difficulties, I accept." When asked, near the end of his life about his decision not to step down from the papacy, John Paul II replied, "The strength to continue is not a problem for me, but rather for that Christ who called me, as unworthy as I am, to be a Vicar on earth. In his mysterious designs, He has carried me. And it will be He who decides my lot." We Christians as well as all people of good will can only believe that the Good Lord and His Blessed Mother who commanded so totally the pope's attention and devotion would now embrace him and give him rest from his heroic labor on behalf of redeemed humanity.

Saint Mary's Papal Experts

Brother Charles Hilken, Ph.D., professor of history, specializes in the papacy, papal elections and medieval history. Brother Charles wrote an article about the rituals surrounding a pope's death and burial, published in March 2003 in a museum catalog titled "St. Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes." He can be contacted at (925) 631-4314.

Father Michael Russo, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Communications, travels to Rome frequently and is knowledgeable about the candidates who could succeed Pope John Paul II. Russo is currently in Rome providing analysis for CBS News, which he also did during the last papal transition in 1978. He will be available in the Bay Area for interviews between April 10 and 15, where he can be reached at (925) 376-1619 or on his cell phone at (925) 586-1219.

Paul Giurlanda (925-631-4141 or 510-547-0352), chair of the Religious Studies Department, and Tom Poundstone (925-631-4696), a religious studies professor, are well versed in the history of the Catholic Church,the pope's legacy and the worldwide political role of the Vatican. They can also comment about the future of the church with a new pope.

Nancy Pineda-Madrid, Ph.D.
, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and teaches theology courses. Her specific expertise is in the area of feminist theologies, U.S. Latino theologies, and particularly Latina feminist theologies. She can address questions related to women's ordination and women's role in the church. She can be contacted at (925) 631-8127.