'BENADDICTIONS': The lighter side...and sheer indulging!

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00Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:35 PM
'Pride and Prejudice in the Vatican'
Book review by
Translated from

Nov. 17, 2009

It is difficult to say who might be the anonymous cardinal who, with an all-knowing (and sometimes competent) tone, has come out with this so-called Confession d'un Cardinal, written 'anonymously' with the help of French writer Oliver Le Gendre [itself a pseudonym, according to our Beatrice], published in France in 2007 and now in Italy as Orgoglio e Pregudizio in Vaticano (Pride and Prejudice in the Vatican).

But basically, it does not matter. [He could well be a fictional construct himself - since his self-description in the book would narrow down the possibilities to a handful of cardinals, none of whom fits the bill of particulars exactly. Unlike the cardinal who first 'broke' the secrecy of the Conclave with his 'revelations' in October 2005, about whose identity a consensus was easily formed; he has since died.]

What matters is the book's premise, which is to demonstrate subtly -
sometimes openly, sometimes not, sometimes revealing it, sometimes masking it - that the Church today needs a new wind of change.

And therefore, it needs a Pope who does not fear science, democracy and modernity, one who is not entrenched in archaic positions. As though the present Pope were all that. and that, in fact, he is the anti-modern Pope!

So the premise of the book is that the Church needs a Pope who is open to modernity. But to proffer such a premise, it posits the certainty that Joseph Ratzinger is anti-modern, something that needs to be demonstrated, which in any case, this book does not!

Leaving aside the book's thesis, and quite apart from the progressivist fervor of this so-called cardinal who claims he could not participate in the 2005 Conclave because he was by then seven months past his 80th birthday [so we must assume he turned 80 in September 2004], that he had been the head of a Curial congregation and that he knows the world of Vatican diplomacy as few others do - in short, detaching oneself from the idea developed in the book that a great deal, if not everything, in the Vatican is 'pride and prejudice', we may derive something interesting, at least about the 2005 Conclave.

Of which much was already 'known', in the sense that much has been written about what went on in the Sistine Chapel then [despite the secrecy oath taken by each participant on pain of excommunication].

According to the most common version, Joseph Ratzinger got 45-47 votes in the first ballot, followed by Carlo Maria Martini and Jorge Bergoglio who had about 10 votes each. These results remained substantially the same in the second ballot of the first day.

On the third ballot taken the following morning, the future Pope had 75 votes, two short of the necessary two-thirds majority, and Martini was no longer in the running, whereas Bergoglio got 35 votes. This might have produced a stalemate that could have led to a compromise candidate, as in the Siri-Benelli competition that led to Karol Wojtyla's election in 1978.

Instead, and surprisingly [????], many of those who had voted for Bergoglio shifted to Ratzinger who became, after the fourth ballot, Benedict XVI.

What is less known is whether Ratzinger himself had anticipated his own election. The anonymous 'cardinal' says he did not, that he thought of himself more as a 'kingmaker'. [Sounds unlikely, the kingmaker thing, given Joseph Ratzinger's personality, and the fact that, as Dean of the College of Cardinals, he could not very well propose, not even covertly, any specific candidate for Pope. Of course, one still wonders who he voted for, in all four ballots.]

And that this explains some events preceding the Conclave. In particular, the Via Crucis meditations prepared by Cardinal Ratzinger for Good Friday 2005, when the condition of John Paul II was visibly worsening and everyone had the succession in mind.

The Cardinal jolted everyone by stating that the boat of the Church seemed to be sinking and that the soiled garments of the Church were a cause for dismay.

Why then did he say these things? 'Anonymous' says it was because Ratzinger did not consider himself at all to be a candidate to the papacy, but wanted to be a witness, with his words, and as a hinge element of a precise orientation in the College of Cardinals, "to organize a coherent force for the benefit of someone else".

But for whom? Who was he thinking of? 'Anonymous' does not give an answer, but says that "In his [Ratzinger's] actions, I saw the confirmation of a scenario that not only I but many others had foreseen would happen, namely, a repetition of 1978".

[Well, they were wrong. Besides, in addition to what Benedict XVI has said since then, there have been enough statements made by friends of his attesting that he pleaded with them not to consider him for Pope.]

Rodari's review is necessarily sketchy. I now wish I could get a copy of the book, out of curiosity. Early last year, I remember Beatrice did a six- or seven-part 'deconstruction' of the book on her site,

and also pointed to a series of commentaries in Eucharistie misericorde by the knowledgeable Abbe Barthe who has a reputation for being well 'wired into the Vatican'.

In any case, the conclusion seems to be that the book - written in the 'interview' style used by Vittorio Messori and Peter Seewald with Cardinal Ratzinger - is a detailed 'manifesto' for a progressivist group called Sarepta [a Biblical town mentioned in the Gospel]

whose website is called 'Salt of the Earth', and in which one reads the following:

Who are we?

An international network of Christians.
We have learnt to know each other.

In common we share several convictions:

• the “crisis” of the Church is not due to recent causes, objects of futile feuds among the progressives and the traditionalists,
• the Christian message will again be audible if people of faith want to incarnate, wherever they live and for the service of the world, the tenderness of God,
• a myriad of individual or collective initiatives are executed in this spirit,
• these initiatives are carried out in discretion, experienced in prayer, opening up to the very poor, for the purpose of giving the Christian faith an expression as close as possible to the Gospel.

Sarepta allows such faithful people to get to know each other, to share their projects and expectations, to confirm themselves on the road they have chosen to follow.

Sounds completely commendable, but the site contains nothing else apart from instructions on how to become a member and how to communicate through webaster.

00Wednesday, November 25, 2009 8:50 PM

On Beatrice's site,
her Spanish friend Gloria has had the unique and wonderful initiative of creating montages featuring all the state visitors who have called on Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2009 so far.

I think that the Pope's official visitors - in terms of heads of state and/or government - easily outnumber those of the President of the United States.

And, as Beatrice notes, how could any critic possibly claim the Holy Father is isolated in his ivory tower? Not to mention all his meetings with visiting bishops, Curial officials and groups, and so many associations!

The message on each of the 'postcards' is:


00Friday, November 27, 2009 7:31 PM

I can't figure out why Ignatius Insight decided to re-post this today, but in any case, it is always welcome reading for experiences with and insights on Benedict XVI of which only someone like Peter Seewald, who has written two interview books on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is capable.

The Preface to Benedict XVI: An Intimate Portrait

Nov. 27, 2009

What is it like to sit opposite a man like Joseph Ratzinger for many hours, alone in a monastery, and discuss things with him, asking a thousand questions?

We were high up in our monastery, often in reality above the clouds, and there was always something that gave you the feeling there was a good spirit there.

At any rate, I came to know Joseph Ratzinger as a great man for patience, as a spiritual master who can give answers. Here was someone who simply understood people, who had retained the liveliness of youth. Someone who did not burn out quickly but in some way remained whole - and most impressive in his attitude of humility, with which he makes small things seem great.

Joseph Ratzinger is a born teacher, but he did not want to become ope. Even after the conclave, on the loggia of Saint Peter's, his face showed the traces of an inner struggle.

Photograph from April 19, 2005, that Reuters chose as one of its '100 Photos of gthe Decade (2000-2009)'

And he probably felt like crying, so disturbingly moved was he by the condescension of the great God who entrusted him, at the end of his path, with the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

The man from Bavaria - contrary to all the projections dumped onto his shoulders - is a revolutionary of the Christian type. Seeking out what was lost and saving it is the constant element in his life. An inconvenient man who can seize on the spirit of the times, who warns people against the aberrations of modern life.

Anyone who really wants change, he cries out, needs a change in his consciousness and his personal behavior - anything else is insufficient.

Now, as Benedict XVI, the most powerful German at the beginning of the new millennium may offer a new opportunity for Europe and, especially, for his homeland.

And Peter's successor has given his own people an exciting motto for this: "We are not working to defend a position of power", he says. "In truth we are working so that the streets of the world may be open for Christ."

That would mean, then, something like a "Benedictinizing" of the Catholic Church, a healthy revitalization of mercy, of the origin of the mystery.

This is an approach based, not on activism or considerations of feasibility, but on faith.

And the Pontifex in Rome could find himself helped not only by a reawakened longing for meaning and a new consciousness that truth is indispensable, but also by a new generation of young Christians, whose desire is to live out their faith in all its vitality and fullness once more, piously and without inhibitions.

"The Church is certainly not old and immobile", declared the new Pope enthusiastically; "No - she is young."

And it was also untrue, he said, that youth is merely "materialistic and egotistic: young people want an end to be put to injustice. They want inequality to be overcome and for everyone to be given his share of the good things of the world. They want the oppressed to be given their freedom. They want greatness. They desire goodness. And that is why the young ... are once again wide open for Christ."

And then he added, just like a rebel of earlier times. "Anyone who has come to Christ seeking what is comfortable has indeed come to the wrong address." And, quite certainly, anyone who seeks that with Pope Benedict, too.

Abbey of Benedictbeuern
September 2005
Peter Seewald

00Monday, December 7, 2009 8:10 PM
Don't you wish there were more stories like this that get told and shared with the public?

Boy's wish comes true:
He meets the Pope


Dec. 4, 2009

ST. JOHN, Indiana -- Andrew Birlson celebrates Mass often, donning his priestly vestments, carrying his Bible, and singing songs, occasionally swinging an incense burner to offer a blessing.

The nine-year-old boy recently traveled to the Vatican through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and received a blessing from Pope Benedict.

His vestments were handmade by his grandma and his mom, Theresa, and his incense burner is a tealight holder on a chain.

He knows all the colors of a priest's vestments and when during the Catholic religious calendar they are worn.

"I have them all, white, purple, red, green, pink," he says, his bright eyes wide with enthusiasm.

[I hope he had a chance to tell the Pope about his 'playing priest' - Pepperl Ratzinger would have thought about how he and brother Georg used to do that as boys.]

Andrew lives in the same house his family has owned for 150 years, and is a member of the same church his family has attended just as long, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, just down the highway.

His faith, his mom says, is passionate, which is why Andrew, unlike thousands of other gravely ill children, told the Make-A-Wish Foundation that he wanted to go to Rome to visit the Pope.

The third-grader at St. John Evangelist School has a rare genetic disorder called citrullinemia. His body does not produce the enzyme necessary to digest protein, so his mother has to monitor everything he eats. He has had 200 blood draws and six hospitalizations this year.

If he ingests too much protein, the ammonia levels in Andrew's body rise to dangerous levels. He begins vomiting and could go into a coma.

That's what happened when he was 3 days old, when he suffered brain damage and almost died. At Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Theresa and Bob Birlson pinned a cross to their infant son's bed and told him Baby Jesus and Mary would be with him.

Andrew also became sick on Nov. 18 when he, his parents and three of his four sisters (18-month-old Elizabeth stayed home with grandma), had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

"We were waiting in the security room and Andrew got sick," Theresa Birlson said.

"I threw up two times," Andrew piped in.

Already in the VIP section behind the cardinals and bishops, Andrew was moved to the front of the line where the spiritual leader to 1.1 billion Roman Catholics placed his hands on Andrew and blessed him.

"I said, 'I love you' to the Pope," Andrew said, looking at a photo of the Pope kissing him on the forehead.

After the papal audience an ambulance whisked Andrew away to Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesu‎ hospital where he spent the next four days.

Make-A-Wish handled all the details of the family's unexpectedly extended stay, and Andrew was able to enjoy his last day in Rome.

"He wanted to go back to St. Peter's," his mom said. Big sister Olivia, 15, videotaped him running through St. Peter's Square that day, chasing the pigeons.

Andrew's answer as to why he wanted to visit the Pontiff is simple.

"Because I love the Pope," he says, breaking into yet another song from Sunday Mass.

It was Andrew's only wish. He wouldn't even offer a back-up when asked by Make-A-Wish volunteers. In fact, Sophia Morton, who has been with the Greater Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky chapter of Make-A-Wish for 10 years, said she remembers only one other child out of 6,000, an Ohio boy, who asked to see the pope.

It was Andrew's faith that helped him get to Rome, a feat much more complicated to carry out than a trip to Disney World, where the vast majority of Make-A-Wish kids want to go.

To be considered, Andrew had to write a letter to Make-A-Wish telling why he wanted to visit the Pope.

His sisters, however, told their mom that a letter wouldn't do justice to their little brother's religious zeal.

"Words can't describe Andrew as far as his faith goes," Theresa Birlson said.

Instead, the girls videotaped Andrew celebrating a "Mass," singing his songs and showing his passion for life.

The DVD included photographs of Andrew with various priests he knows.

Andrew rattles off their names, Father Maletta, Father Larry, Bishop Melczek and on and on.

When he was smaller, Andrew would hug the statue of the Blessed Mother holding Baby Jesus when they passed it in church.

"Or he would point and say, 'That's not Baby Jesus, that's me,' Theresa Birlson said. "Things like that led us to believe Blessed Mother was taking care of him."

Her son sometimes tells her, "Jesus snuggles with me at night when I'm trying to go to sleep."

"He's just so on fire with love for Jesus," Theresa Birlson said. "It's all so unprovoked, my husband and I said it's got to be a connection with heaven."

In Rome the family did make time to see ruins and artifacts, including a piece of the crib from the manger in which Baby Jesus lay.

They walked to the top of St. Peter's on a stairway hundreds of years old and so small a rope was hung to hold onto because there was no room for a handrail.

"When we got to the top we could see all of Rome," Theresa Birlson said. "The trip was once in a lifetime, maybe even more.

"It was so cool," she said. "Who gets to shake the Pope's hand and get a physical blessing from his consecrated hands?" she said. "For those hands to be placed on our son's head was so overwhelming. It was an honor and a blessing."

Pope Benedict also blessed all assembled and any religious articles they had brought. The Birlsons were prepared, with an entire carry-on bag full of medals, rosaries and prayer books for friends and family, which Andrew insisted on carrying himself.

"We saw this as a pilgrimage not only for our son but our whole family," Theresa Birlson said.

She said Make-A-Wish was "outstanding" in handling Andrew's illness.

She says that while her son's illness has been a drain on the family, "Spiritually he's brought our faith to a whole new level.

"We would go to Mass in the past, but the way he changed us is so far beyond what we could have imagined. He's truly a blessing to us."

00Wednesday, December 9, 2009 7:45 PM
At the General Audience today....

00Thursday, April 8, 2010 11:15 PM

...with the greatest of thanks to BENEVOLENS

Benevolens's note on the pictures:

The pics are from a new book about Papa's childhood and youth called "Ich werde mal Kardinal" ("I will be a cardinal when I grow up") by Johann Nussbaum.

About the pic of young Joseph in what appear to be Bavarian style leather pants: The author showed it to Msgr Georg Ratzinger who confirmed it depicted indeed Joseph, but that the pants were not leather because that would have been too expensive.

The other photo is an enlargement of Joseph in a seminary group photo of 1947.

NB: I enlarged the photos, so the enlargements are grainy!

00Friday, April 9, 2010 8:46 AM
Thanks Teresa, the pics look even better now! Also for your kind comments in the PRF. [SM=g9554]
I was a bit sceptical at first whether the youth in the pants was really Joseph, but since brother Georg confirmed it, there can be no doubt, Georg must know!

Dear Eva,

I think the elfin ears are also a clue!

Many thanks again -- and keep the treasures coming in with your incredibly productive Ratzinger/Benaddict photo search engine!



00Friday, April 9, 2010 5:39 PM
Just for my record, how old would you think he is on the first picture ?

I've been thinking about it - and it looks like some of the pictures taken of him as a young priest, so early 20s? Almost certainly, later than the 1947 seminary pic, when he would have been 20!...Maybe the book has a clue...

00Wednesday, April 21, 2010 12:49 PM
This nun has been praying for
Joseph Ratzinger since 1959


April 17, 2010

Sr. Emmanuel with Cardinal Ratzinger in 1998.

Sister Emmanuel Hofbauer has taken to heart St. Teresa of Avila’s instruction to pray for priests. At the age of 11, she was shown an ordination photo of Father Joseph Ratzinger and his brother Georg. She said this experience mysteriously confirmed her desire to become a nun and to pray in a special way for priests.

Now, one of them is about to celebrate his fifth anniversary as Pope.

Then-Father Georg Ratzinger served in her parish in a small Bavarian village at the foot of the Alps, near the town of Oberammergau, famous for its Passion plays. Father Joseph Ratzinger would eventually become archbishop of Munich, the archdiocese in which she lived.

After moving to the United States in 1955 and attending Seattle’s Holy Names Academy, she entered the Carmelite monastery in Seattle in 1959 at the age of 19. The following year, she formally received her new name and distinctive Carmelite habit. Sister Emmanuel remained in Seattle until 2009, when she moved to the Carmel of the Mother of God in San Rafael, Calif.

Her correspondence with Cardinal Ratzinger began in 1986, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of her first profession in 1961. Sister Emmanuel received a letter from Cardinal Ratzinger, thanking her for all her years of dedicated service to the Lord and his Church. Thereafter, they corresponded a few times every year.

While in Rome for the canonization of Carmelite nun Edith Stein in October of 1998, Sister Emmanuel met with Cardinal Ratzinger.

Sister Emmanuel recently spoke with Register correspondent Trent Beattie.

What are some of your memories of the Ratzinger brothers from your childhood?
When the Ratzinger brothers were ordained in 1951, I was only 11 years old. One of my teachers showed me a newspaper clipping of the ordination. This photo of the Ratzinger brothers deeply impressed me.

I already hoped to become a sister like the Sisters of St. Elizabeth who lived near our house. One of the sisters told me of how she wanted to enter the Carmel in Cologne but was not allowed because of her asthma. She told me that the apostolate of Carmel is mainly to pray for the Church and for priests. I decided then and there that that is what I am called to do. I wanted to pray for holy priests such as the Ratzinger brothers.

Msgr. Georg Ratzinger became my pastor’s assistant in 1951-1952. Joseph Ratzinger was never my pastor, but became archbishop of Munich in May 1977. In June of 1977 he became cardinal, and in November of 1981 he became the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

When did you start corresponding with Cardinal Ratzinger?
Through my family, teachers and friends I received news, especially about then-Archbishop Ratzinger. Anything about him and Msgr. Georg interested me. For some mysterious reason, God bonded us. I found my vocation through them, and I was to pray and sacrifice my life for them and for all priests.

My direct correspondence with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger began around 1986. It was the year of my Silver Jubilee, and he wrote to me a beautiful letter which I will cherish as long as I live.

I read some of his books and booklets, and I often prayed: “Lord, this man should be heard and seen more.” When I met him face to face in 1998 in Rome, I knew that he would be the next Pope. His election was a joyful, emotional moment.

What was your immediate response to Cardinal Ratzinger being elected Pope?
I was so happy that the celebration of his festive inauguration fell on April 24, which is also my birthday. It was the best birthday present I could have received.

Do you think Cardinal Ratzinger in choosing the name Benedict (after Pope Benedict XV, but also after St. Benedict, the “Father of Western Monasticism”) thereby showed great respect for the religious life?
I do not know why he chose the name Benedict. I think he chose it more to follow Pope Benedict XV, who is known as the “Peace Pope” — he became Pope just a few months after World War I broke out. He worked untiringly for peace and wrote the encyclical Pacem Dei Munus. I am sure he loved St. Benedict, the father of monasticism, and has great love and respect for the religious life.

What do you think of the latest media attacks on Msgr. Ratzinger and Pope Benedict?
The media attack on our Holy Father and on Msgr. Ratzinger is so unjust, so unfair. I have met through the years many Regensburger Domspatzen (members of the famous singing group once led by Msgr. Ratzinger), and they have the highest regard for Msgr. Ratzinger.

In instances of sexual abuse committed by some of the clergy, the devil uses priests in order to cast blame upon the entire Church, because he hates the Church and wants to destroy the Church. But we know Christ’s words: “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

Some people have accused our Holy Father of not following the Gospel, while in fact he is a living Gospel. He lives faith, hope, love, reconciliation, peace and justice — truly Christ-like.

What do you think of the criticisms of the Pope from people who have never met him or even read any of his writings?
People who criticize our Holy Father did not know much about him or his writings. They knew him only as a disciplinarian when he was the prefect. They do not know that in fact he is a deeply prayerful, spiritual, humble, gentle man. The same is true of his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger.

Do you still get to correspond with Pope Benedict, or is that not possible?
Yes, I still correspond with His Holiness through his private secretary, who allows my letters to reach His Holiness, and I receive a few lines and holy cards through his secretary. I tell him of the highlights of our life here at the monastery and assure him of my prayers.

Could you tell us about meeting Pope Benedict in person?
In 2006, our Holy Father visited Germany. One of his visits was in Pentling, near Regensburg. My cousins [Rupert and Therese Hofbauer] take care of his house in Pentling. It is the house where he and his brother were going to retire, but God had another plan. My cousins invited me to visit them during that time and help prepare for the coming of our Holy Father to his house forperhaps the last time.

It was an unforgettable experience, like a family reunion. The police and his guards allowed us to come close to him. I remember him taking my hands and asking me to please not forget him in my prayers. Since I am celebrating my Golden Jubilee on May 22 of this year (dated from the Clothing Day, or Name Day, that took place in 1960), I hope to see our Holy Father once more within the next couple of years, God willing!

In this Year for Priests, what thoughts do you have about praying for priests?
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, as all Carmelite sisters, had a great love for priests and for the priesthood, but her love was not naive. She knew that priests were frail human beings like all of us. She wanted to support them in every way she could.

Do we love and support our priests as we should, and as they need us to? It can be easy to become annoyed and see the faults of our priests; sometimes we see only their weaknesses. However, Jesus has given us a priceless treasure in the priesthood. Through his priests we receive all the bounty of his graces through the sacraments — and his very self in the Eucharist.

Surely, we owe our priests immeasurable gratitude for their self-gift to God on our behalf. In this Year for Priests, let us renew our commitment to pray for our priests, to affirm our priests, to love and support our priests. They need us more than ever as they try to show forth God’s presence in a world that increasingly denies him and ignores his ways.

00Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2:58 PM
WOW!!! The cousin of the Pentling 'house keeper' has been praying for the Ratzinger brothers since 1959?!

Amazing! There goes another confirmation of: there is no such things as coincidences!!

What a wonderful story!!! Thanks a lot! And what a sweet picture!


I thought so too! And about the picture, I particularly liked that she has her arm linked around his! ... I wish we could come across more stories like this....


00Saturday, May 1, 2010 6:49 PM


Just to remind anyone who gets to Europe one of these days - there is a neat little tour called the BENEDIKTSWEG you can do by car or by bike. Follow the sign of the miter...

The article posted two days ago in the BENEDICT thread datelined Traunstein elicited pleasant memories from a great friend of the Forum who e-mailed me the following, and whom I thank for this:

I found the article about Traunstein, Bavaria very interesting, especially since my husband and I had visited there in 2007. We were traveling in Austria when on a train from Vienna to Salzburg, I noticed that the stop for Traunstein was only a half an hour from Salzburg.

One morning, we took the short ride to the lovely city. We spent the morning walking around the town and took a taxi ride to the Ratzinger home in Hufschlag, which was very modest and as charming as he described it in his biography.

The pictures of Hufschlag above were taken by Simone at the PRF.

The baroque church really was beautiful...especially considering that it was a very small city by our standards. But isn't that true everywhere in Europe ... it was clear that the church was the most important building and the center of community life.

Picture from the Sankt-Oswald site.

The people in the church were very friendly. They had brochures printed in several languages describing the life of the future pope in Traunstein. I couldn't find a place to put an offering so I went over to one of the parishioners who were helping with the upkeep of the building and asked if they could take it. They were so grateful and obviously very proud of there former neighbor.

There was a small tourist office that offered information about walking tours of the town and included additional places that were significant in the future pope's life... such as the school and seminary attended by the Ratzinger brothers.

More pictures from Simone.

On the train ride I thought of the two teenage brothers cycling to Salzburg to attend the music festival. It must have been quite an adventure! I can't see my kids riding their bikes into Manhattan even though it is probably about the same distance!

BTW I was surprised to see not a few people wearing traditional Bavarian lederhosen. We were in Salzburg on the Feast of the Assumption and attended the liturgy (which featured Mozart's Mass) at the Franziskanerkirche.

Very many woman wore lovely dirndls and men wore a more formal version of the classic garb. Even those not in traditional garments were clothed very nicely in dresses, jackets and ties. We were put to shame by our casual American tourist clothes!...

00Sunday, May 2, 2010 8:13 AM

I will never forget the afternoon of October 15, 2005, around noon in New York, late afternoon in Rome - I watched CTV's streaming feed of Benedict XVI meeting some 100,000 First Communion kids in St. Peter's Square. The format could not have surprised me more... and I found myself furiously scribbling in Italian trying to catch up with the dialog - through all my excitement at the wondrous experience of listening to this great intellectual answering children so easily and substantially in language any six-year-old could understand Below, I have reproduced what I wrote on the spot, or almost, for the RFC at the time, so moved and excited as I was! ... Two days later, the Vatican Press Office released the transcript of the dialog, and I did not hesitate to go ahead and translate it. It was the first time I ever translated any text by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI (I think I had been a member of the RFC for only six weeks at that time) and it was undiluted pleasure....

And today, on the Feast of St. Joseph, this wonderful development, reported below by Amy Welborn...

May 1, 2010 by Amy

About three years ago, I think, a blog reader wrote to me with an idea.

Her name was Ann, she was an artist living in New York, and she was as grateful for the papacy and wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI as I was. She had been struck by the Holy Father’s exchange with First Communion children back in 2005 (wow…that was a long time ago…) and thought it would make a nice children’s book. Would I be interested in helping her edit/find a publisher?

Well, I’m ashamed to say it took me several months to get back to her – she was very patient and I’m glad she was persistent. Over time, she continued working on illustrations, we talked about how to go about this, I edited the dialogue, wrote a scene-setting introduction and some other framing material, did a book proposal, and started sending it out.

And sending, and sending, and sending. To (I think) every Catholic publisher in the United States and several secular publishers.

No, no, no.

Which…surprised me. But enough about that.

A few months ago, I was fretting (and fuming) about this, when the Holy Father’s visit to England was announced…hmmmm…I thought.
So I wrote to the Catholic Truth Society, and within a very short time, they had considered the idea, agreed to it, and…in a very short time, they have brought it to print. As of today!

Here’s the website entry for the book.

The price is given in US dollars as well as pounds – I assume you can order it from the US, although I’ve no idea what the shipping would be.

Ann will be eventually making signed prints of the images available through her website, so watch for that.

Both Ann & I journeyed to Rome at various times over the past couple of years, hoping, as a side note to the trips, to present mock-ups of the book to the Holy Father. There’s one illustration in particular that Ann did using a photograph of the young Joseph Ratzinger after his own First Holy Communion, that we thought he would appreciate.

We both had our adventures in doing so – I attempted when I went in the fall of 2008 (you might remember – to visit my son David who was living over there at the time because, you know, he’d forgotten his jacket, and I probably should take it to him…), and got as far as a seat in the VIP section for the General Audience, but I was on the wrong side for presenting the HF w/Stuff, so I blew it, but Ann succeeded very nicely the next April(2009) ….

…which was better, since it’s really her and the Holy Father’s work!

We’re very, very pleased to finally see this book in print. We’re praying that the Holy Father’s gift for simple, yet profound catechesis will help children and parents draw closer to Christ.

Ann's site is a pleasure to peruse... Her watercolors are exceptionally fine, and she has such a gift for detail and color. And whether her subjects are landscapes, still life or people, they are all suffused with inner glow... Thank you for this garden of delight in cyberspace, Ann.

Here is my post on the First Communicants event 4-1/2 years ago....resurrected from the former Ratzinger Fan Club, now the Benedict XVI Fan Club.

Posts: 1055
10/15/05 10:10:08

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE THAT WAS! Papa must have spent at least 20 minutes waving and blessing as the Popemobile went through the large crowd all the way up to where the Bernini colonnades end and Via della Conciliazione begins....

Highlights of his Q-and-A with the kids (quick translations from the notes I took - I watched the whole thing on CTV in beautiful, pure, unspoiled-by-commentary Italian - while the Pope was speaking, so some words may not have been exact and I may have missed some key phrases):

Question #1 - Holy Father, what do you remember of your own First Communion?
Answer: It was March of 1936, a Sunday, a beautiful day. The sun was out, the church was filled with music...There were about 30 of us in a small town that had only about 500 inhabitants...And like one of you said earlier, I understood that Jesus had visited me, that God himself was therefore in me, that this was a gift of love which would last me for the rest of my life. I was starting a new stage in life. I was 9 years old, that was almost 70 years ago...I promised Jesus that I would want always to be with Him...and so I moved forward in life...It began a friendship with Jesus...If we go with Him, everything will be well and we shall see that life is good.

Question#2: Should I go to confession each time before receiving Communion? And what should I do since I seem to be confessing the same things all the time?
Answer: First, it is not necessary to go to confession every time, only if you have commited a sin that is truly grave, because then it is necessary to begin anew. But even if you don't have to go to confession all the time, it is useful to do it regularly. About seeming to confess the same things over and over, it's like cleaning our rooms regularly even if it's always the same dirt. It's the same way with the soul. If we do not cleanse it regularly, it becomes all dark. Cleaning out the soul cultivates beauty of the spirit and helps us develop and mature in life.

Question #3: Our catechism teacher says that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. Why don't I see Him?
Answer: (The Pope laughs, very amused) But there are so many things we do not see, but we know they exist. For instance, reason, or intelligence. Or take electricity, for instance - we do not see it, but we know it is there because we see its effects - the lights function, my microphone works because of electricity. Usually we cannot see the most profound things, but we can see their effects. It's the same way with our Lord - we know Him by the effects that he works in us . Persons become better because of Him, He helps us to be better persons and therefore to live better lives.

Question #4: We have been taught the importance of going to Sunday Mass. But sometimes our parents don't - they prefer to sleep. Why is it important and what can we do?
Answer: You must always treat your parents with great love and respect, so you can say to them, "Dear Papa, Dear Mama, can we take a little time each Sunday to go to Mass? Because it is important for us and important that we do it together as a family." But remember, always do this with great love and respect.

Question #5: What purpose is served by going to Mass?
Answer: To find the center of our life, which is Jesus. Those who do not go to Mass do not know that they need Jesus, but they know that they need something at the center of their life. We need our friendship with Jesus who brings us joy and helps us to grow and develop in life. We may not always see the effects in our life at once, but over the weeks and years, we will feel more within us that sense of Jesus being with us. It is a basic need for us that we nourish ourselves with the Eucharist.

Question #6: What does it mean when we are told that "Bread is life"?
Answer: Bread is the basic nourishment. Just as we need to feed ourselves physically, we also need to feed our soul so that it can mature and attain its fullness. Jesus himself is the food for our soul, for the inner man. It is His friendship that feeds us, to develop and attain maturity, that makes it possible for life to be good.

Question #7: What does the adoration of the Eucharist mean?
Answer: We will be doing it together shortly with words and song. But what is it? To adore the Eucharist is to recognize that Jesus is my Lord, that I live well only if I follow His way, and to say to him, Jesus, I am all yours....


The Adoration that followed was a lovely experience...Beautiful symphonic music accompanied the hymns sung by everyone... The sun set just before the Adoration began, so the evening setting was very appropriate and there was a full moon even.

It was very emotional for me to see St. Peter's Square once again as the grand stage (the best in the world) for an extraordinary event that was beautifully planned and executed.

I wish this had been telecast all over the world as the Funeral for Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict's own inauguration, for once again, it is the Roman Catholic Church doing what it does best - demonstrate the faith as well as inspire it through a meaningful celebration of liturgy.

00Sunday, May 16, 2010 2:30 AM


Both editor Amy Welborn and illustrator Ann Kissane Engelhart now have it on their respective websites, so here is more material from the beautiful children's book that they put together on Pope Benedict's Q&A with First Communion children in Rome in October 2006.
I have mounted their pictures with the title page and Table of Contents:

The pdf of the entire book can be seen through Ann's website,
under Children's Books

and the book can be ordered online at
It makes an excellent gift for children, especially those who are about to have their First Communion.

Ann was interviewed yesterday on Telecare, a Catholic TV service for Long Island. The interview can be seen on
(Click on the icon for 'Everyday Faith Live' - she comes on halfway through the program, at around 14:00.)

Also, now it can be told... Ann is the friend of the Forum who contributed the anecdote earlier about a visit to Traunstein.
Thanks for the support and your friendship, Ann.

00Thursday, June 10, 2010 4:20 PM

Many thanks to Ann for sharing this with us, from the diocesan newspaper of Rockville Centre, New York.


When Ann Kissane Engelhart came across the online transcript of Pope Benedict speaking to children about making their first Communion, she knew, as a Catholic and an artist, that she wanted to share it by turning it into a children’s book.

“It’s a very charming dialogue,” Engelhart noted of the October 2005 meeting between the pope and some children of Rome who had recently received their first Communion.

“The idea of this scholar theologian speaking to eight-year-olds really struck me. They asked him questions about the Eucharist and he answered them off the cuff. He really spoke to them on their level, answering challenging questions with great depth but in a way they could understand.”

The dialogue inspired Engelhart, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in North Merrick, the mother of two, and wife of diocesan Catholic Charities’ chief operating officer Paul Engelhart, to create a children’s book, she said, “since otherwise I thought it might get lost like everything else in cyberspace.”

Friendship with Jesus: Pope Benedict XVI Speaks to Children on Their First Holy Communion, was published last month by Catholic Truth Society, publisher to the Holy See in England. Blogger and children’s author Amy Wellborn edited the dialogue for the book, and Engelhart provided the illustrations, using watercolor.

Engelhart noted that before she started this project, she didn’t know much about Pope Benedict, but after hearing him preach at Pope John Paul II’s funeral, “there was something that resonated with me. I was particularly touched by his homily at the Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate, where he already began to introduce the importance of friendship with Jesus as essential for a life of beauty and liberation. It was at that point that I began to read his books and follow his writings as pope and discovered him to be an extraordinary teacher.”

It was during this time that she discovered his conversation with the children. She noted that the Pope spoke to them about his own first Communion, and when they asked him how we can know that Jesus is in the Eucharist even though we can’t see him, she liked how he compared it to knowing electricity is turning on a light, even though the electricity can’t be seen.

Engelhart had been a school art teacher for many years and has a studio in her home where she teaches art classes and paints watercolors for customers, but this was her first time illustrating a book.

“It’s different, illustrating in general,” she noted, “and when you’re commenting on the Pope, you want to be as accurate and supportive of the ideas being expressed as possible. But I had been inspired by the Pope’s teachings and it encouraged me to want to do this project because of my faith. This book really is an expression of my faith.”

The project finally came together after several years, she noted, and this past spring while visiting her daughter, who was studying in Rome, “we actually gave a copy of the mock-up to the Pope during a general audience.”

Though the Pope’s conversation is aimed at children, Engelhart noted that she hopes the book is something that will speak to entire families, who can read it together.

“I would hope that (by reading the book) they have a greater understanding of the sacrament of Holy Communion, that they would see it as the beginning of a friendship with Jesus, that they’ll always stay close to Jesus, and that the book will hopefully make them interested in the words of the Holy Father.”

Friendship with Jesus is not yet available in stores, but can be purchased through Engelhart’s website, www.annkissaneengelhart.com.

What a coincidence that tonight, in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Fahter will be answering questions from his other children - the priests, ministers of God consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders!

00Sunday, June 20, 2010 2:22 PM

Ricetti, Aneddotti e Ricordi
dalla vita di BENEDETTO XVI

223 pp, 12 euro

The publisher's blurb:

What must one eat as a child to become a Pope when you grow up? If that were all it took, then we would find out by reading this new and very special book rich with tasteful recipes, of course. But above all, this is a book dense with with memories, anecdotes and stories from the childhood of the boy who would become Benedict XVI.

Since he was born in a small village in Lower Bavaria, the dishes offered, like the accounts of his childhood, are wrapped in the flavors and colors of his native land, where customs and traditions andure and are very much alive even today.

A lover of Bavarian cuisine, editor of many books on gastronomy, and passionate cook, Ute Flock produced this book with the supervision of a great expert in recipes and in practical instructions for everyday life: Suor Germana.

The book reflects all the simplicity and wisdom of someone who has for many years written down advice, reflections adn teachings in a successful blend of spirituality and good sense, family values and the best of traditional dishes.

, in its 6/18/10 issue, comments on the book:

'Eat like a Pope'

The book Mangiare da Papa, written by Suor Germana, the Catholic Julia Child, for De Agostini publishers, has an unintentionally surreal subtitle.

Thanks to the collaboration of Ute Flock and anecdotes told by friends and relatives of Benedict XVI, this recipe book shows "what one must eat as a child to become a Pope later".

But with the dishes described, there is a risk of not getting to be an adult at all: It is a celebration of animal fats and sugars, cholesterols and triglycerides, from the cutlets, sausages, custards and fried foods, typical of Bavarian gastronomy.

Perhaps the longevity and lucidity of Joseph Ratzinger are owed rather to his 'conversion' to the Mediterranean diet which, the book explains, took place when he came to Romw.

But it seems the Pope enjoys eating: his mother was the daughter of a baker and was an 'expert cook', as her future husband specified in an announcement he published looking for a wife (to which two women answered).

And a story in the Observer out of the above, and obviously, going through the book itself:

Eat up your veal,
lard and stuffed pigeon -
and you might be Pope

by Tom Kington in Rome
The Observer
June 20, 2010

The good health of Pope Benedict XVI is not down to his childhood diet, according to a new book.

Italians impressed by Pope Benedict's good health and quick mind at the age of 83 have been shocked to learn that the German pontiff's favourite recipes are a suicidal mix of fried, buttery and carnivorous pleasures.

The glimpse at Joseph Ratzinger's culinary wish list is granted by a new book, Eat like a Pope, which details, in all their greasy glory, the top dishes served up in the Ratzinger household in Bavaria by his mother before the war.

A cholesterol roller coaster, the recipes range from stuffed pigeon with butter, cream and sherry, to soup with liver and onion dumplings, to the "exquisite butter and jam biscuits" that young Joseph loved.

Publisher De Agostini said the book is already into its second edition since publication last month, despite coinciding with the child abuse scandal swirling around the Vatican.

But Italian weekly L'Espresso warned children against attempting to follow the Ratzinger diet if they wanted to grow up to be Pope themselves.

"With these dishes, there is the risk of not reaching adulthood at all," the magazine stated. "This is a triumph of animal fats, sugar and cholesterol."

The collection was put together with the help of a woman who lived next door to the Ratzingers and regularly swapped recipes with Maria, Ratzinger's mother, the daughter of a baker who met the future Pope's father after he put out a small advert seeking a bride in 1920.

Joseph Ratzinger Senior, a policeman, wrote in the ad that only "expert cooks" should apply, preferably including a photograph with their response. Selecting Maria from the two replies he received, Ratzinger ensured himself and his family a constant diet of goulash, hare cooked in lard and red wine, roast veal kidneys, veal cutlet dished up in herby butter and, when Mrs Ratzinger was not cooking, buttery biscuits made at Christmas for the family by local Franciscan nuns.

Snacks in the Ratzinger house, according to the book, were likely to be hunks of bread served up with Brie rolled in chopped onion and mixed with beer.

"Would it not be the case that the longevity and lucidity of Joseph Ratzinger should instead by attributed to his conversion to the Mediterranean diet, which occurred when he arrived in Rome?" asked L'Espresso.

Somehow, I think Kington's piece gives a wrong idea of meals in the Ratzinger household - not at all the impression one gets from reading Milestones, which is one of frugal circumstances. Certainly, his mother would have had all those recipes since she was a cook and would have made them for special occasions, but not as daily fare!

In Milestones, Joseph recalls the day he came home from the American POW camp, marking the end of the war for him: "In my whole life I have never again had so magnificent a meal as the simple one that Mother then prepared for me from the vegetables of her own garden".

00Tuesday, February 1, 2011 10:02 AM

For some reason. Lella on her blog resurrected one of the earliest of the 'human interest' features that came out in the early days after the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope. She ran the ZENIT story, which is the second posted here, but here's all three of the stories in English that I read at the time about this wedding....

Joseph Ratzinger:
Lover of lovers

by Anthony and Marta Valle

April 22, 2005

The Valles pose at St. Peter's Square with one of their wedding photos a few days after the Conclave.

Who is the real Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI? To the world he is many things; to us he is the priest who celebrated our wedding Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on June 24, 2004, a short 10 months before he became Pope Benedict XVI.

Who are we? Two ordinary students who met three years ago in Rome on the footsteps of a church after Mass. What was our "connection" to the current successor of St. Peter? None. We simply asked and he said yes.

In February, 2004, we attended Cardinal Ratzinger's weekly Mass, celebrated Thursday morning at 7 a.m. inside the Vatican in the church of the Campo Teutonico, but open to the public. He has celebrated the Mass for many years for anyone who wishes to come.

After celebrating his Mass, then Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, emerged from the sacristy in a simple cassock and was greeted warmly by an excited crowd of people from all over the world, some to get the great theologian's personal autograph, others to get a picture with the second most powerful prelate in the Church, and yet others to thank this holy German priest for his persevering and faithful service to Christ and the Church.

At first he struck us as somewhat timid. However, as he approached the excited and sizeable crowd of people, he began to talk to and take interest in each individual person who has come to see him. He answered questions in various languages, asked some of his own, occasionally cracked a joke or two, while always devoting his entire attention to each individual person in such a soft, pastoral way. This much was obvious: the real Ratzinger was most at home as a man of the people, as a shepherd keeping watch over his flock.

It was our turn. We introduced ourselves to his eminence, reverenced his ring, engaged in some pleasant talk with him, and then - we popped the question: "We have a favor to ask of you, your Eminence".

He waited patiently.

"Will you celebrate our wedding mass?"

"Well, let's see what we can do. Why don't you write a letter to me with some possible times and dates."

"Well, actually Your Eminence, we already have one prepared."

Within a week, Marta received an envelope from the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. We open it, stunned: it is a yes!

Several months later and a few days before our wedding date, at the cardinal's request, his secretary scheduled us to meet the cardinal. He wanted to get to know us a little better.

Being a responsible secretary, he emphasized over and over, "You only have 10 minutes with the cardinal - that is all. He is a very busy man and I am responsible for keeping his schedule."

The door opened and we entered to be warmly received by the cardinal. However, we exited his office some 30 minutes later, only at the end realizing that not we but rather he had far exceeded the set limit.

We talked about everything from our backgrounds, our families, and our studies to spirituality, sacred music, liturgy, theology, plainchant and polyphony. Yet what struck us immediately about the cardinal during our private meeting with him and also when he celebrated Mass was not his towering intellectual genius, but his obvious simplicity, his humility, and his holiness.

Two days later was June 24, the day of our wedding. We were brimming with joy since we would receive the sacrament of matrimony, be eternally wedded to each other in Christ, and all this in the Eternal City, in the heart of the Church, from a man whose heart is clearly burning with a deep love for Christ.

The sermon was a profound meditation on the readings, particularly on Ephesians 5. Here the cardinal passionately underscored the husband's subordinate role to the wife in so far as the husband must sacrifice himself continuously for his wife out of a deep love for her, just as Christ sacrificed himself for his own spouse, the Church.

What made the highest-ranking prelate in the Catholic Church next to the Pope give his yes to an unknown couple's request that he celebrate their wedding Mass?

At their wedding, what made him give such a nearly half-hour long sermon, which could --or one could even argue-- should have been much shorter given the cardinal's tremendous responsibilities?

What, on top of all this, compelled him to send us a personally inscribed, limited edition of his latest book as a wedding gift?

These are questions that we continually ask ourselves, and the only answer that gives itself back to us in the faintest of whispers is Love, better yet, a person so smitten by a deep and personal love for Christ that he himself becomes the Lover of Lovers.

And that is the real Ratzinger we came to know.

'Just married" … by Cardinal Ratzinger!
Interview With Marta and Anthony Valle

The wedding photo, cropped from the larger photo above.

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- When Marta and Anthony Valle were married last June by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, they did not imagine that the man who married them would be the future Benedict XVI.

In this interview with ZENIT, Marta and Anthony speak about their personal experiences with the cardinal, and their admiration for the man who married them. Marta could barely speak as she had a bad case of laryngitis 'from screaming so hard on April 19'.

Both students at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, Marta is from Germany and studies bioethics, and Anthony is from New York and studies theology.

How did it come about that you two were married by Cardinal Ratzinger?
We were just lucky, better yet, providentially lucky. We asked him after one of his public Masses and he said "Well, let's see what we can do. Give me a few dates and times in writing."

Being good students we had done our homework and handed the cardinal a letter that we prepared the night before with all the necessary information. Within a week Marta received a response: a yes!

We were married by him in St. Peter's Basilica on June 24th, 2004. He is truly a man of the people. Although he was the second most important man in the Church, he took his time out for us on that Thursday morning for one hour and a half so that we could receive the sacrament of marriage.

And that is essentially what the priest's charism is -- to give the sacraments to the people, because the sacraments are the means of salvation that Christ gave to us.

What did you feel when his name was announced as the new Pope?
Anthony: We were so thrilled and overjoyed that tears were running down our cheeks.
Marta: We were shouting so, so much!
Anthony: It is amazing that he was elected in only four ballots and within less than 24 hours. That shows that there was a definite unity among the cardinals. They knew he was the right man. We are very happy that we have such a holy and humble man as our new Pope.

As Pope John Paul II did so well, Pope Benedict XVI will continue to lead the Church, preserve her tradition and bring the Church forward into the new millennium with the New Evangelization.

Yes, he is old, but God will give him the necessary graces. If you remember, the first thing he said when he came out on the balcony: "The Lord knows how to work and act even with insufficient instruments, and I especially entrust myself to your prayers." He is very humble. I can't emphasize this enough.

However, he is often unfairly stereotyped as being a very strict and stern enforcer. Nothing can be further from the truth. Such stereotypes are absurd and laughable. He is such a mild and unassuming man, perhaps even a little shy.

As we know, his former job as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith required him to preserve the bi-millennial teachings of the Catholic Church. Therefore, whoever had or has this duty, will get a negative image precisely because so many of the teachings of the Catholic Church do not conform to the ideological mind-set of modern secular humanism and to so many of the other fashionable and false "isms" of our historical epoch.

Some say that he has a very 'hard face'.... [For the life of me, I cannot imagine how anyone could ever describe his face as 'hard' in any way!]
Anthony: If you ever have the chance to meet him, as we had on several occasions, you will immediately see how sweet, kind and pastoral he is. In fact he has been the most accessible cardinal in the Church.

For example, he has celebrated Mass in a little chapel open to the public every Thursday morning for the past 20 or so years.

Furthermore, he celebrates Mass so beautifully and reverently, truly entering into its redemptive mystery. Moreover, after he says Mass, he takes his vestments off in a very recollected way in the sacristy, while clearly still meditating on the tremendous mystery that just took place.

He then exits the sacristy to greet the crowds of people who have come to meet him. This is where you see his true self, who he really is. He takes his time to greet each individual person, looking into their eyes, shaking their hand, asking their name, why they are here, what diocese they are from, signing his autograph, taking pictures with them, etc.

He really gives you all of his attention and talks to you person to person. This is what a priest should be, this is what a Pope should be: a shepherd, a pastor of the people, and this is precisely what Pope Benedict XVI is, and this is what the world needs to know and will know.

What advice did he give you in the homily of your wedding Mass?
aNTHONY:Marta knows better since the homily was mostly in German.
Marta: We were married on the feast of St. John the Baptist, so only the second reading was specifically for our wedding. We chose the fifth chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, which talks about how the husband and wife should be.

Cardinal Ratzinger said that we need to model ourselves according to Christ's example of love, which is a love that manifests itself very concretely in acts of service and sacrifice.

Anthony: The then cardinal emphasized how both the husband and the wife should be subordinate to each other. Today, however, everyone over-focuses on the one verse that speaks of how the wife should be subordinate to the husband.

But they forget that later on St. Paul emphasizes -- and this was one of the cardinal's main points -- that a husband should love his wife as Christ loves the Church, that is to the point of sacrificing his own life for her. This is what it means for the husband to be the head of the family: to imitate Jesus Christ as head of the Church.

Although he is the Lord, the first one, he manifests his lordship by being the last one, by putting himself in the last place, by becoming the servant of all, by washing the feet of his disciples.

At the time, there was also this short item from AFP with an added detail:

ROME - Anthony and Marta Valle, who have met the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI several times, described him as a humble, kind, and giving man, always there to listen to this flock.

"He's great," said Marta Valle, a fellow German, who often attended masses held by the then-cardinal every Thursday in the Teutonic chapel at the Vatican.

"He's really a humble servant, he's always there for you," she said as she hugged her friends in Saint Peter's Square celebrating the election of the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

Anthony Valle of New York said the Pope -- referred to by the media as "God's Rottweiler" -- was misunderstood by his critics.

"He's very calm, not a Mediterranean type," said Anthony Valle. "In general, people of northern Europe tend to be more stoic. But he has a burning love for Christ.

"He wants to preserve the Church and that upsets certain people who want to water it down," said Anthony Valle. "But that's what the Pope's job is, to preserve the Church."

Marta Valle remembered meeting the 78-year-old pope, elected Tuesday after one of the shortest conclaves in recent history, after the masses. "He would always greet people, speak to them," she said. "He listens to you."

The two have a very special tie to the new Pope, the 264th successor of Peter. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II died April 2 aged 84.

Months before the wedding, Valle had gone to the then-cardinal with the engagement ring he was going to use to propose.

"I didn't even have to say anything," said Anthony Valle. Ratzinger blessed the ring for him. "We went back together and he congratulated us very warmly," he said. "He's very pastoral, that's what people don't understand about him."

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