Universal community celebrates faith, fellowship

November 27, 1994|By Dan Rodricks | Dan Rodricks,Sun Staff Correspondent

ROME -- When the new cardinals stepped onto the smooth, sun-washed cobblestones of St. Peter's Square, they were greeted by the happy singing of young nuns from Mexico and Manila, Scots with bagpipes, bright banners and flags from Uganda and Lebanon, salutations in a half-dozen languages and cascades of applause.

zTC The celebration at the Vatican was like a World Cup event, an international pep rally for the Roman Catholic Church. It was, at the very least, a robust outpouring of support for the 30 prelates from around the globe who ascended to the College of Cardinals.

Thirty minutes after each of the new cardinals took their oaths before Pope John Paul II, some were swimming in a great lake of people in the piazza along the colonnade on the west side of the square.

Bishops in black cassocks with purple sashes, monsignors in cassocks with red piping, friars, deacons and seminarians embraced them. Men, women and children in cloth coats and sweaters, Japanese women and girls in kimonos, and kilted men from Glasgow all reached for the cardinals' hands.

"He looks good in that red thing," a chubby bus driver from Detroit said of the new cardinal of that archdiocese, Adam J. Maida.

Nuns in simple habit gathered in semicircles around guitar players and sang religious folk songs in Spanish and Italian.

When the pope referred to the universality of the "Christian community" during the ceremony inside Aula Paolo Sesto -- Paul VI Hall -- this is what he meant.

"What we saw today was the Universal Church," said the Rev. Dennis J. Diehl of Baltimore. "We Americans tend to forget how far-reaching this faith truly is. I mean, there were 2,000 people from Scotland here, and people from Hanoi."

And from Prague and Tokyo and Santiago and Bordeaux and Detroit and Lima and Montreal and Barcelona and Guadalajara. Even three television crews from Albania.

A Cuban expatriate reached for a Maryland woman's hand. Mary Counselman had come here to witness the elevation of Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler and found herself standing next to this stranger, who was crying. The man gave her a miniature Cuban flag on which he had written, "Pray for Cuba's freedom."

"Do you know your cardinal?" the man asked her.

"Not very well yet," she said. "A little."

"Tell him to pray for Cuba's freedom," the man said. "Every day at noon we pray for Cuba. Will you pray with me?"

The exchange put tears in Ms. Counselman's eyes. She kept the flag.

"One of the great thrills of my life," said Larry Galloway of Baltimore as he focused his camera on the singing nuns from Manila. "Great pride, great joy."

"I was just so impressed and moved by the ceremony," said Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who sat at the consistory with his wife, Patricia, and their 14-year-old daughter, Katherine, a few rows behind diplomats in white tie and tails. "It was very moving to hear, in particular, the applause when the archbishop of Sarajevo was mentioned."

"I sat with people from Guatemala and Uganda," said Baltimore City Councilwoman Agnes Welch. "We sat there and listened and we didn't speak the same language, but there were no barriers because we understood each other. We felt the same way, people from all around the world sharing the same faith."

Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding in Connecticut, came at Cardinal Keeler's invitation. A couple of days ago, he gave the blessing at a dinner for the pilgrims traveling with the cardinal, saying that "all of mankind are partners with God in creating a better world."

Yesterday, he joined the crowd to congratulate the new cardinal.

"Years ago I remember seeing the New York Yankees farm team play in Newark, N.J.," the rabbi said. "I remember, later, what a thrill it was to see some of them, like Charlie Keller, King Kong Keller, play in Yankee Stadium. And I remember thinking, 'That's my Yankee,' because I had seen him in the minor league.

"Today, when I saw Cardinal Keeler up there [at the consistory], I said, 'That's my cardinal, he's mine.' The ceremony was really inspiring. We got up and cheered for our cardinal, Cardinal Keeler, but everyone cheered for the cardinal from Sarajevo, a struggling country."

Each time Bosnia-Herzegovnia was mentioned -- and each time, of course, in Latin -- the consistory audience erupted in applause.

"It was a moving moment for me, as a priest, to hear the name of my archbishop [Keeler] called," Father Diehl said. "I felt pride for him and the archdiocese of Baltimore. But to hear the applause for the archbishop of Sarajevo, to hear such support from all around the world, and to hear the pope trying to give direction and leadership toward peace for Bosnia, for all these struggling countries, well, it was awesome."

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