Gentle seeker of peace: Meeting the man who became Pope Benedict

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the keynote speaker at a Vatican conference on the traditional Latin Mass in October 1998, seven years before he would become Pope Benedict XVI — whose funeral Pope Francis will lead in St. Peter’s Square Thursday.

Two friends and I, media and congressional staff in our mid-20s, saved up money and vacation time to fly to Rome for the event, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the then-limited permissions Pope John Paul II gave to offer the old Latin Mass if the local bishop allowed it.

We arrived about an hour after Ratzinger’s speech, having been introduced to how incredibly unfamiliar it was to travel to Europe before the age of electronic tools. We were devastated at our poor planning, missing the man we came to see. So we embarked on a walk through the streets of Rome, taking it all in.

As we wandered aimlessly, having no clue as to which Via we strolled, we passed a cleric who looked strikingly similar to the man of the day. “No way,” my friends said when I asked them if that was him. Why would Cardinal Ratzinger be by himself on this street?

I was not about to let it go and ran back to the white-haired man dressed as a priest, simply stating aloud his name with a question mark. “Yes?” He could not have been more gracious. My friends and I explained we came from the United States to Rome to participate in the Latin Mass celebrations, and we missed his talk.

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Gentle seeker of peace: Meeting the man who became Pope Benedict

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