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5/21/2009 9:33 PM
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Here is an excerpt from an interview with Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and a recent convert to Catholicism - IT is interesting not just for what Gingrich says about why he converted, but his observations about Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II.

Gingrich on seeing Benedict XVI:
'I was just struck by how happy he was'

Excerpted from

May 20, 2009

...Part of what led to my conversion is the first time we [he and his wife Callista] went to St. Peter's together.

It's St. Peter's. I mean, you stand there and you think, this is where St. Peter was crucified. This is where Paul preached. You think to yourself, two thousand years ago the apostles set out to create a worldwide movement by witnessing to the historic truth they had experienced. And there it is.

The last time we were there we were allowed to walk in the papal gardens and you get this sense that is almost mystical.

The moment that finally convinced me [to convert] was when Benedict XVI came here [to the United States] and Callista in the church choir sang for him at the vespers service and all the bishops in the country were there.

As a spouse, I got to sit in the upper church and I very briefly saw [Benedict] and I was just struck with how happy he was and how fundamentally different he was from the news media's portrait of him. This guy's not a Rottweiler. He's a very loving, engaged, happy person.

I'd first seen Pope John Paul II when he came to the U.S. when Carter was president and I was a freshman congressman. And I [later] met him as Speaker.

The other sense is that the Church has had two of its most powerful popes back to back, in their intellectual ability to engage the secular world on behalf of Christ.**

And the weight of all that, and going with [Callista] to church every Sunday to the Basilica [in Washington, D.C.], a magnificent church with a wonderful mass. In that sense I felt differently a long time ago, which is why I converted.

And part of me is inherently medieval. I resonate to Gothic churches and the sense of the cross in a way that is really pre-modern

**It's the first time I've ever seen anyone acknowledge outright, in public and in print, something I never hesitated to say from the very beginning, though using a different adjective ('great' instead of 'powerful') - the Church must thank the Lord for having given it two great Popes in succession.

And I think we ought to 'catechize' Newt Gingrich that the adjective for Benedict XVI is 'joyful' and 'joyous' rather than just 'happy'!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/21/2009 9:38 PM]
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