By Scot Landry, March 14, 2013
At 2:00pm Rome time, Cardinal Seán O’Malley met with members of the media from Boston and later with Univision.
In my brief conversations with Cardinal Seán before and after the media events, it was very apparent that he rejoiced in the election of Pope Francis and that he was extremely happy he would be returning to Boston to celebrate the liturgies of Holy Week.
The Pope Pius VI room at the North American College turned out to be too small for the number of media but it worked. I thought there were many great questions and I think the media were also happy that Cardinal Seán was making himself available to answer their questions so that everyone back home in Boston could hear his reactions even before he returns to Boston.
Here is the full audio from today’s press conference:
Here is a transcript of the press conference.
Terry Donilon, Secretary for Communications at the Archdiocese of Boston: Cardinal Seán, perhaps you could begin by providing some initial reflections on what you’ve experienced over the last few days.
Cardinal Seán: Well obviously, for everyone in the Church, that decision of Pope Benedict to resign was a shock, and in some ways, a crisis for us. To be without a Pope is being [spiritually] orphaned.
So, the Conclave has given us a new Holy Father, a new representative for the Church, and a new Vicar of Christ. So it’s obviously a moment of great joy for the whole Catholic world. Being a part of it was a very humbling and moving experience. The Conclave is a very prayerful experience. It’s almost like a retreat. I know that when you read the Italian papers, it seems like it a political campaign, or like the primaries or something. [Laughter]
It really is a spiritual and prayerful experience of discernment. When you walk up with a ballot in your hand and stand before the image of the Last Judgment and say, “with Christ as my witness, I am voting for the one whom I feel is the one God wants to do this [Petrine Ministry]. This is a great responsibility.
Obviously, we’re delighted that the Holy Spirit moved us to elect Pope Francis. I certainly approve of the name! [Laughter]
It is a great thing for us to have a Pope from the New World. I won’t say he’s the first non-European [Pope], because early on there were African Popes in the Church. He’s the first one from our hemisphere and obviously that’s a part of the world where half of the Catholics live. Also, almost half the Catholics in the United States are also Hispanic. The Pope is everyone’s Holy Father, but it’s a wonderful connection for him to have that cultural and linguistic tie with so many of the faithful.
We’re also happy to see the interest of the press. [Laughter.] So many have been credentialed to cover this event. Last night, from the loggia looking down at the multitude in the Square, listening to the roar of enthusiasm, seeing all the flashes going off, hearing the papal anthem being played, and listening to the Holy Father’s words, and asking the people to pray with him and praying the very simple prayers that all Catholics know: The Our Father, The Hail Mary, The Glory Be. It was very moving.
Rachel Zoll from the Associated Press: Could you talk a little bit about how you got to know Pope Francis? How long have you known him?
Cardinal Seán: Well, I first met him in different meetings over the years. A couple years ago I was his guest in Argentina. I have always known of him and been an admirer of his. He’s very close to a number of the Capuchins in Argentina, who are the members of my order.
[Followup] Rachel Zoll from the Associated Press: Would it be fair to say you know him very well?
Cardinal Seán: Yes.
Joe Mathieu from WBZ radio. Good morning and thank you for spending time with us. We appreciate you for being so generous. Your name has been thrown around in the Boston press, Italian press, International press for some many days with so much speculation. I am wondering if you feel a sense of relief this morning that you have the same job?
Cardinal Seán: As I told someone this morning, if the only prerequisite for being Pope was not wanting the job, I would have been the most qualified Cardinal in the Conclave. [Laughter.] So, of course, I was gratified by the warmth of the Italians in their enthusiasm for me. But that’s because they love St. Francis. They got a Pope Francis anyway, so I hope they’re satisfied. [Laughter.]
Lisa Hughes from WBZ-TV. When we were here last night, Your Eminence, Cardinal Dolan described the moment when Pope Francis said “accepto.” He said that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Can you describe that moment when former Cardinal Bergoglio accepted this honor?
Cardinal Seán: Well, obviously, we were all hoping that he wouldn’t decline. [Laughter.] It was a very moving moment. Afterwards, each one of us went up and kissed his ring, hugged him, and congratulated him. It was a very moving experience, truly.
Kim Khazei from WHDH. I wanted to just ask that about the popularity. Even though you said you bought a round trip ticket, a lot of people thought that you would be a great fit for the job. Your humility. What else is there about you that you might have been able to bring to the table? You also spoke about Pope Francis, particularly you talked about reforming the Church being a priority. Do you expect to see more the same or change in the Catholic Church?
Cardinal Seán: Pope Francis is coming out of Latin America where there is such a contrast of rich and poor, and so many very grave social problems. He is a man who is very much impassioned by the desire to make the Church present to people in their suffering, relieve the suffering of the poor, and make them feel that it is their Church. I think that is going to have repercussions in this pontificate.
[Followup] Kim Khazei from WHDH. With some of the pain people have felt back home in Massachusetts and in the United States, with the scandal, do you think there will be healing there?
Cardinal Seán: I’m confident that there will be. This is a man who has a great sense of mission. He values transparency. I have great confidence that he will further the process of healing in our Church.
Heather Unruh from WCVB: It’s great to see you. Thanks for having us today. Can you tell me your reaction when you realized that this was would be the first Jesuit Pope? What does he significantly and uniquely bring to the Papacy?
Cardinal Seán: The Jesuit order is one of the most important orders in the Church. I make a lot of jokes about Franciscans and Jesuits [laughter]. Their educational ministry and their presence in our missions is so great. They are known for their discernment. We need a wise and discerning leader in the Church at this time. I’m sure that he will help to re-energize the Catholic identity of Jesuit education and be a great source of encouragement to the Jesuit order throughout the world.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a religious as Pope. I think having somebody in the consecrated life as Pope is also a way of lifting up this vocation in the Church, of men and women religious, who so often around the frontlines throughout the world.
We’re very, very pleased that we have a Jesuit Pope.
Patricia Thomas from Associated Press TV: A Jesuit priest said to me this morning that Pope Francis came out without the mozetto on top of his vestments. This is a Pope who’s not going to fit in with the ‘silk and fur atmosphere’ of the papal court? Do you agree with that? Also, Thursday he is supposed to go to Castel Gandolfo. How do you think his relationship with the Pope Emeritus is going to work?
Cardinal Seán: I’m sure that he will have a very great relationship with Pope Benedict. In fact, I was touched that one of the first things he did [last night] was to ask people to pray for Pope Benedict, and he expressed gratitude for his ministry.
Obviously, as a Latin American, he doesn’t have the same weight of European history that people from this continent have. So I think he’s probably to be a little freer to perhaps jettison some of the traditional things. Those traditions are important to our people too, so there has to be a balance between what is appropriate in the 21st-century and what is a holdover from the past.
Scot Landry from TheGoodCatholicLife.com and The Pilot- Cardinal Seán you mentioned you like the name Francis that he took. St. Francis had a mandate to rebuild the Church, primarily spiritually. Do you think that’s the significance of him choosing the name Francis, that he thinks he has a mandate to rebuild the Church?
Cardinal Seán: I think that there are three themes in St. Francis that he’s identifying with. I haven’t spoken with him about this, so I’m sort of reading his mind.
Certainly , he rebuilding the Church, the reforms of government in the Church and so forth [is one].
Also, certainly Francis as a universal brother. Francis wanted to be a brother to everyone. We have the famous “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” Yesterday he spoke about the brotherhood, the fraternity, that he wants to reign in the Church and in the world. That people look at themselves as brothers and sisters. That’s a very Franciscan theme.
Also, St. Francis’s love for the poor. For St. Francis the poor person was the Sacrament of Christ. Christ emptied himself, took on the form of a slave, and embraced the cross for love of us. For Francis, the poor person was a sacrament of Christ. That’s the vision that Pope Francis has and that’s why he chose that name.
He was very clear right from the beginning. He said this is in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, not Francis Xavier who was the Jesuit. [Laughter].
Rachel Zoll from the Associated Press: Can you talk a little bit about the stability and some the challenges ahead for this Pope? There was some surprise about age. There were expectations and built up that perhaps somebody younger would be chosen as Pope, so that the Pontificate would be a little bit longer. Can you talk about that a little bit? Was that assumption wrong?
Cardinal Seán: Obviously the assumption was wrong. [Laughter.] I think age was a consideration, but there were other considerations that weighed more heavily I think on the discernment process.
Whether the Pope’s reign is long or short is not particularly important. Pope John XXIII was older when he was elected and so was Pope Benedict.
I think the experience that he has and the gifts that he brings to the ministry are so precious and wonderful.
Joe Mathieu from WBZ Radio: Cardinal Seán, it’s been reported many times over the past 12 to 24 hours that Cardinal Bergoglio rejected many of the luxuries that are enjoyed by many Cardinals across the world: no limousines; no mansions; he lived in a small apartment; cooked his own meals they say; took the bus to work. I’m wondering to what extent you relate with that lifestyle and whether this is going to be a change in lifestyle for all Cardinals around the world.
Cardinal Seán: I’m not sure what the impact will be. Certainly, the simplicity with which he has lived [is a example for all]. I think he’s been very faithful and has tried to live his religious life even as a Bishop and as a cardinal. That’s a good example that we hope will have an impact.
Lisa Hughes from WBZ-TV. Your Eminence, what do you want to people in Boston to know about Pope Francis today?
Cardinal Seán: Well, just that is a very good man, and that he’s going to be a good leader for the Church. His experience of coming out of Latin America is also very important to us in the New World, and particularly, in the growing immigrant populations in Boston. I think there will be a great sense of joy and identification with the Holy Father.
I’m curious to see what will happen this Summer at World Youth Day. They were already talking about 2 to 3 million young people in Rio. But that was before they counted on all of Argentina coming, [laughter] and the rest of Latin America. It will be quite a wonderful event.
[Followup] Lisa Hughes from WBZ-TV: Will you go?
Cardinal Seán: Yes.
Kim Khazei from WHDH: Cardinal Seán, when you first walked into the room and made your opening remarks, you said you were moved when Pope Francis asked people to pray. It brought you close to tears. What specifically where you were reflecting on that made you so emotional?
Cardinal Seán: They were simple prayers that all Catholics know. From children to old people, to those who have university education, and those who are illiterate. Those prayers unite us all in the same family of faith.
It was beautiful to see how he was able to hush hundreds of thousands of people who were cheering and so enthusiastic. He was able to bring them to the moment of prayer, to be in God’s presence.
[Followup] Kim Khazei from WHDH: Did this whole experience end up being one of the most important moments of your life?
Cardinal Seán: I never imagined as a child that someday I would be a part of the Conclave. Some of you may be old enough to remember there was a movie out – “The Cardinal” – many years ago. Although the storyline was not the most edifying, they were famous for the way they replicated the scene in the Sistine Chapel. I never imagined that someday I would be in that Chapel, taking that oath before Christ the Judge of the world, and being part of choosing a new successor to Saint Peter.
Heather Unruh from WCVB: I know you’ve made it clear, Cardinal Seán, that you looked forward to that round-trip ticket home. What are you most looking forward to? I know that if you had been as Pope, you would give up the entire life that you’ve known so far. So now that you know if you’re returning to Boston, and the things you love, what are you most looking forward to?
Cardinal Seán: During Holy Week, we have the Chrism Mass, which to me is one of the most important moments of the year. I gather with all the priests, we renew our vows to serve God’s people, we bless the oils that are used as our tools for baptisms, confirmations, and anointing of the sick. That’s always a very important moment for priests. I look forward to sharing that moment with my priests each year.
[Followup] Heather Unruh from WCVB: Are you also looking forward to some of the smaller things in life, the things that you like to do? Maybe you could elaborate on if you have a favorite street you walk on.
Cardinal Seán: Well I think just being able to go out and walk. [Laughter]. People talk about the palace that the Pope has and everything. He’s a prisoner in a museum. [Laughter]. It’s not a wonderful life.
In fact, I read Cardinal Dziwisz’s book about his experience being Pope John Paul II’s secretary for so many years. In that book, he reveals that John Paul II used to sneak out [of the Vatican] to go skiing. Nobody knew about that. I was so happy, [laughter] because the Italian government, The Gendarmes, the Army and everyone else would have had a fit. But they used to put him in the backseat of the car and go out and go skiing.
I hope Francis will be able to sneak out occasionally, to go to a tango show or something. [Laughter.]
Patricia Thomas from Associated Press TV: Last night I was standing at the obelisk just like I was when Cardinal Ratzinger came out in 2005. It was taking longer. I was standing with a lot of Italian photographers who were joking around saying, “it’s taking so long, he must be panicking back there because he doesn’t want to do it.” Why was it taking so long? Was he doing the tango? [Laughter.] What was going on back there?
Cardinal Seán: Well, there was such a crowd of people. Just getting him through took a long time because everybody wanted to congratulate him. A lot of the workers came in at that time. Also I think that they also wait to give people the time to get to the Piazza. I think he could have gone out earlier.
The Sistine Chapel is right near the loggia. From the Sistine Chapel, we first prayed the Te Deum, a hymn of Thanksgiving. Then we greeted the Holy Father individually. Then we started walking over toward the big window. Then there was a big crowd out there [in the loggia] that kind of slowed things down. [Overall] I think the plan is always to give enough time for people to get to the Piazza once the word gets out that there is white smoke.
Scot Landry from TheGoodCatholicLife.com and The Pilot- Cardinal Seán, you’ve just gone through a week of General Congregation meetings and a couple of days in the Conclave. You’ve been a priest for more than 40 years, a Bishop for more than 25, and a Cardinal for 7 years. What have you learned new, over the last week or so, that has helped you appreciate the beauty of the Catholic Faith more, that you look forward to sharing with Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston?
Cardinal Seán: The catholicity of the Church. Being with the Cardinals from all over the world and listening to them talk about the experience of the faith and their people in Asia and Africa and South America and North America and Europe. The mission that we share as Catholics. Our fraternity in the Church, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, through our baptism. It’s a very moving experience.
Lisa Wangsness from the Boston Globe. Could you talk about the kind of relationship you expect to have as Cardinal Archbishop of Boston with the new Pope. Do you expect to invite him to Boston? Do you think because you share a love for Latin America and the Spanish language, that you’ll have any particular mission or projects that you’ll be working on?
Cardinal Seán: It’s a little early to forecast. Certainly, as Cardinals, we are at the disposition of the Holy Father and are his advisors. I told him that whatever we can do to help, we stand ready.
We would look forward to inviting him someday to Boston. It would be good. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Pope there. John Paul II was there in 1979. So we’re due. [Laughter.]
David Filopov from the Boston Globe. We have heard snippets of things that the Pope has said that portray a humility and a sense of humor. Where you there at the toast, for example, when he said “may God forgive you all” [for electing me]. How does he come across as a person? Is he really the soft-spoken, self-deprecating man that was seen glimpses of?
Cardinal Seán: He is. He’s very disarming.
I had lunch with him yesterday before the vote [laughing]. At that point, he seemed very weighed down by what was happening. Last night, I think that was at peace in his heart that God’s will has been accomplished in his life.
He’s very approachable. He’s very friendly. He has a good sense of humor. He’s very quick and a joy to be with.
[Followup] David Filopov from the Boston Globe. Father Lombardi told us that he didn’t use the papal car but rather he rode back on the bus with the other Cardinals. How was the atmosphere? Were you surprised that he rode back on the bus? Did you expect that?
Cardinal Seán: That’s what I would’ve expected.
Lisa Wangsness from the Boston Globe. Can you talk a little bit about the time you spend with him in Buenos Aires in 2010?
Cardinal Seán: I was there on business for the USCCB, the Bishops conference, and I was his guest. We did have the time to visit and talk a lot about this situation of the Church in Latin America. We spoke a lot about our some of our mutual friends.
He gave me gave me a great CD that I enjoy very much. It is the Misa Criolla, which is Argentine music for a Mass arrangement. It was a very pleasant and very informal visit, because my business for the USCCB was not precisely with him. With him, it was more of a social visit.
[Followup] Lisa Wangsness from the Boston Globe. Were you at his house?
Cardinal Seán: Yes.
[Followup] Lisa Wangsness from the Boston Globe. Did you visit his apartment? If so, can you describe it?
Cardinal Seán: He lives in the part of the Chancery, which is a church office building. There’s an apartment in there and perhaps his secretaries. I’m not really sure who is in the other apartments.
Question: Cardinal Seán, are you happy to be back in your brown robes?
Cardinal Seán: Oh yes. I had not worn those Cardinal robes so much in the last seven years as I’ve worn them in the last week. And those need to last me the rest of my life. [Laughter.]
Terry Donilon: Cardinal Seán is going to be celebrating Palm Sunday Mass at 11:30 [on March 24] at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Thank you everybody.
Cardinal Seán: God bless you, everyone. Thank you.
After the press conference was complete, Cardinal Seán had an interview in Spanish with Univision.
From there, George recorded Cardinal Seán on video sharing some of the items he was allowed to keep from the Conclave. Please see www.CardinalSeansBlog.org on Friday evening after 10pm Eastern Time to see the video. I think you’ll find the video fascinating.
Thanks everyone for visiting TheGoodCatholicLife.com.
If you have prayer requests that you’d like brought to St. Peter’s before I leave, please make sure I have them by Sunday morning at [email protected].