Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard three stories about the recent papal visit that I’ve found especially moving. First: The visit of Pope Benedict XVI with Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., who has been ailing, in a private meeting in Cardinal Egan’s suite in St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, on Saturday afternoon, April 19. This meeting took place after the pope greeted disabled children. The following account is taken from the New York Jesuits’ newsletter, written by Anne Marie Kirmse, O.P., Cardinal Dulles’s longtime assistant. "The Pope literally bounded into the room with a big smile on his face. He went directly to where Avery was sitting, saying, ’Eminenza, Eminenza, I recall the work you did for the International Theological Committee in the 1990’s.’ Avery kissed the papal ring and smiled back at the Pope. Then the Pope looked at the people in the room who had accompanied Avery to the Seminary: Fr. Tom Marciniak, who served as Cardinal Dulles’s priest-chaplain for the meeting; Sr. Anne-Marie Kirmse, O.P.; and Francine Messiah and Oslyn Fergus of the [Jesuit infirmary’s] medical staff. After this warm and friendly exchange of greetings, the Pope sat down next to Avery to hear the remarks that Avery had prepared and which were read for him by Fr. Tom Marciniak. During the presentation, Fr. Tom handed the Pope a copy of Avery’s latest book, Church and Society: The Laurence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007, which was published earlier this month by Fordham University Press. The Pope expressed great interest in the book, and even interrupted the reading of the remarks to ask again when the book had been published. He eagerly looked through it, and was touched by Avery’s inscription to him. Before leaving, the Pope blessed Avery, assuring him of his prayers, and encouraging him in his sufferings. He then said good-bye in turn to each of the four persons who accompanied Avery." Second: A friend who works at the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, told me that each night at the Papal Nuncio’s residence on the Upper East Side, hundreds of people would come to stand outside of the residence, until the pope would emerge. To great cheers, people would hand him babies to be blessed, serenade him with songs, and wait for his blessing before he retired for the night. According to my friend, the pope confided that these unscheduled encounters as his "favorite" part of the entire visit. The photo below is from outside the cardinal’s residence, on Friday night. "It was a very moving moment of contact with people," said Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Vatican spokesman. "It is not so easy for him to have direct contact."
Third: Another priest friend serving as a secretary to one of the local bishops reported on a private dinner with the pope and a few bishops. At the end of the meal, Benedict asked those gathered together to pray for him. "For what intention, Holy Father?" said one. "That I may never get in the way of Jesus Christ." James Martin, SJ