Inside the Conclave: Cardinal Remembers Benedict XVI in 10 Quotes

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin is the Archbishop Emeritus of Lyon, France. The Little Sisters of the Lamb community in Kansas City, Kansas, on Feb. 13 brought the cardinal to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where several of the sisters study. “Cardinal Barbarin is a close friend of our Community,” said Little Sister Judith, who leads the community in Kansas City. “Our community loves to be close to college students, so that we can bring them to the poor. We wanted to share the gift of Cardinal Barbarin with our friends at Benedictine College.”

1: Help From Above

Cardinal Barbarin began by saying, “Before coming to speak here, I prayed to Pope Benedict that he might help me. I love him a lot. I admire him very deeply.”

2: John Paul’s Death

“In 2005, Pope John Paul II died on April 2.  … Ratzinger celebrated the Mass before the conclave and people began chanting, ‘Santo Subito! Santo Subito!’ ‘Make him a saint immediately!’ We talked about it, and then we had a vote. Ultimately, we thought we shouldn’t make an exception; we would leave his canonization to his successor. And as you saw he was made a saint very quickly.”

3: Conclave Discussions

“In the conclave, we can talk about whatever we want. But no one can tell you who to vote for. No one has the right to say who the other should vote for or who they have voted for.”

4: Life in the Conclave

“Life in Santa Marta is a strange situation. There are three confessors there. There are three doctors there. We could confess to each other, but I suppose they wanted confidentiality. Everything goes peacefully, except sleep. We do not sleep very well during the conclave!”

5: The Birth of Cardinal Ratzinger

“He was born on Holy Saturday” in the days when the Easter Vigil took place on Saturday morning. “He was born at 5 in the morning and his dad took him right away to the Church. And he was baptized almost immediately with the water from the Easter Vigil. This was something very important to him. He would said, ‘On the day of my birth I was reborn.’”

6: Conclave Birthday

In the conclave, “April 16 was that Saturday … it was the birthdate of Ratzinger. So we prepared this little card, for him. He said, ‘I thank you for this very affectionate sign toward me. But I hope your trust for me ends here.’ But we didn’t obey him.”

7: The Deciding Vote

The final vote took place in the Sistine Chapel, he said. “There were two rows, face to face. Cardinal Ratzinger was close to the altar because he was the dean of the cardinals. The subdean went to him and said ‘Do you accept?’ And he said ‘I accept in obedience to the Holy Spirit while knowing my own unworthiness.’ It was very beautiful and simple.” Later, Cardinal Barbarin remembered, the new pope said, “The one thing that I ask you to pray for me is to see Christ and to see only Christ.”

Commented Barbarin, “It was very profound. We knew it.”

8: Ratzinger and the Nazis

Cardinal Barbarin spoke of the profound sorrow Ratzinger’s family had at the rise of Hitler in 1933.

“His father, who was a clear thinking Catholic, says to his two sons who were 7 and 9, ‘You will have to go into the German army. They will make you sing terrible things. Don’t believe anything they say to you.’ Cardinal Ratzinger would say, ‘This was the heritage our father gave to us. We didn’t make a big scene. When we heard of D-Day in Normandy in 1944,  we were then sure that Germany would lose, and it was our liberation that would follow.’”

9: Reversal on the Catechism

“There was so often a Catechism after the councils. There was a Catechism after Trent. But after Vatican II, the fathers decided that there would not be a Catechism, saying ‘We do not need to put the faith in a little box. The faith needs to be expressed freely, and to learn catechetical formulates that we recite is not compatible with revelation. But in 1968 there was this great revolution in Europe where everything was turned upside down. In 1985 John Paul calls a new synod. Representatives vote for the very opposite … ‘Let’s make a catechism! Things are such a mess. Please give us a Catechism, give us a reference.’ So John Paul says to Ratzinger, ‘Do it.’”

10: The Key to Cardinal Ratzinger

“His first encyclical is Deus Caritas Est, God is Love. This is what he sees as the center. The word that defines God is charity, love. Everything you are going to say in theology will start from this point. Charity is the pivotal point of all theology and Christian life.”

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.