00 2/1/2011 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."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/1/2011 10:15 AM]