Beatrice featured this on her website two weeks ago, at least, and I have been saving it to translate for today, as we remember John-Paul II. Beatrice says this imaginary encounter was devised by a friend of hers based on an account Cardinal Ratzinger made in a TV interview about how he finally came to Rome to join the Curia and about his attempts to retire. Here is a translation.
Rome, January 2002
- Cardinal Ratzinger, come in, please! You wanted to see me?
- Yes, Holy Father. I have a request to ask you. I will be 75 years old this year, it's the retirement age, and I would love to go back to Germany...
- Excuse me, Cardinal...Are you talking to me of retirement, to me who can hardly stand up while you trot about like a young man every day across the Square? You still have all your hair, you have a musician's ear, you don't even need glasses except to read. How can you talk to me of retiring? Please, no, I need you here.
Let me remind you that it took me three years to get you to come to Rome. I had to negotiate a lot, Pope that I am.
You remember the first time? 1979, shortly after my election. You said No, you were still fairly new at the job in Munich and you owed the diocese to stay on. OK, I understood that.
The following year, you said you had problems in the diocese and you could not very well leave unless they were resolved - because then they would say you were escaping your responsibilities. I understood that, too.
In any case, you always seemed to have an indisputable reason to refuse. Well, I was not going to argue with you. I could wait.
The third year was 1981. After the assassination attempt on me. You couldn't have dared to refuse me then! So you asked me if you could continue to publish your books, outside of the work at CDF. I agreed, against the advice of some in the Curia, I must say.
Well, now that you are here, I'd like to keep you on. I know I've held on to you for 20 years even if the usual Curial term is only for 5 years. And I know it's not the first time you've asked to be allowed to go. But I need you here in Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger, if you please.
) Listen, Joseph, you are a remarkable man, and I should know. Besides, you have never sought to get to the head of the line, which is not the case with everyone in the Curia. But I must say you have your share of ecclesiastical coquetry: I think you rather like having your peers - including your Pope - plead with you.
) You know, if the cardinals ever wanted to make you Pope, they had better pull out all the stops, if you'll allow me to say so. Someone should warn them. If they want you to stay in Rome, they should reach near-unanimity on your name in record time, or else you will pack your bags and leave....Let's see, if I remember right, it took eight ballotings to elect me. With you, there shouldn't be more than 4.
- But, Holiness, last month Cardinal Martini made the same request to you and you accepted!
- Oh, I know how much you regard the good Archbishop Emeritus of Milan. Well, he wanted to retire to the Biblical Institute in Jerusalemn, and I thought that was a great idea. And don't forget, Cardinal, he also has the beginnings of Parkinson's...
Now, it's true Martini is a remarkable man, but I could do without him in Rome. Easily, I might add, strictly between us. But I need you here!
Besides, not only do I ask you to stay, Joseph, but I have another thing to request. The dean of cardinals will be leaving us soon, and I would want you to be the next dean. I will support your nomination and I don't doubt for a moment that you will be elected.
This means I want you to be with me till the very end and beyond. I would like it very much that it would be you who would preside at all the cardinals' meetings preparatory to the next Conclave, and I want you to celebrate my funeral Mass. We both know the time is near. You will not have to wait long. The Lord will be calling me to Him soon. After that, you may go back to Germany... (sotto voce
) The Holy Spirit can sometimes be mischievous!
-I beg your pardon?
-No, it was a private joke. Well, Cardinal Ratzinger, I will see you on Friday as usual. Remind me to show you a letter from the Archbishop of Johannesburg. He has some sensitive questions, and I would like to hear your opinion....
- And my retirement?
- I already said No, Cardinal. Any other questions?
- Well, no!
_ Good. Then we'll see each other Friday.
- Yes, Holiness. Friday it is.