This past weekend was everything but uneventful. Pope Benedict XVI created 22 new Cardinals in a ceremony called a Consistory on Saturday at St. Peter's Basilica. Two of the new Cardinals are American. Both Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Cardinal O'Brien Archbishop Emeritus of Balitmore are former rectors of the North American College. It goes without saying that it was an especially important day for the college.
You can imagine how many people were trying to gain entrance into the Basilica on Saturday morning. I didn't have any luck getting in, but I returned to the college to watch the ceremony on TV. At first we couldn't find a channel that was showing the consistory. So I went and asked Paolo, one of the Italian workers. I figured he might know what channel to try. He smiled and said told me it would be on Rai 1. That's like someone saying, "Try NBC".
After the Consistory it was all hands on deck for the reception. We hosted close to 1500 guests at the college for a reception of the two new American Cardinals. My job title was 'runner' which consisted of literally running to keep all the food and drinks stocked in the courtyard. Luckily the weather cooperated and it was warm enough (sunny and 60 degrees) to host a lot of the guests in the courtyard. It was a great pleasure to meet some of the guests who had come thousands of miles to support their beloved bishops. I felt like I was in New York City with so many people speaking in a thick New York accent. During the clean up I was on the service elevator moving water to the kitchen, when Cardinal Dolan with his entire entourage comes into the kitchen to use the service elevator. It was great to see him interact with some of the Italian workers who had worked at the college since Cardinal Dolan was the rector. A fairly humorous way to meet a new Cardinal for the first time...
Early that evening on Saturday, there is a tradition of opening up the Apostolic Palace and Paul VI hall to the public so that the general public may have a chance to greet the new Cardinals. I waited in line to enter the Paul VI hall first. I waited in a line (more like a mob) of people to see Cardinal Coccopalmerio (top picture), who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Bishop Hebda had worked in that office under Cardinal Coccopalmerio before becoming the our bishop. I nervously spoke to the Cardinal in Italian and told him that my bishop is Bernard Hebda. His face lit up and we talked for a few moments. I also met Cardinal Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto. I even knew where Gaylord is in Michigan. After touring the Paul VI hall I still had time to go into the Apostolic Palace. The rooms they had open are typically not open to the public. It was a real treat to see them.
Overall, it was a really fantastic weekend. It was busy, but it was a great pleasure to meet so many good people. It seemed like the whole city of Rome was a buzz with activity and everyone seemed so excited, so happy to have 22 new cardinals.