Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican relays this story of an encounter with a voting Cardinal on the streets of Rome the day before the conclave. I excerpt it here because it captures so much of my sentiment.
“I only wanted to tell you one thing,” I said. “That I loved Pope Benedict.”
He stood still.
“I did too, and I do love him,” the cardinal said.
“And so I have been troubled and a bit off balance since February 11,” I said.
And then, as if filled with a sudden emotion, I saw the cardinal’s face grow dark and sad, and he said, forcefully: “I love him, but this should never have happened. He never should have left his office.”
I was silent.
“It is like a man and a woman, a husband and wife, a mother and father in relation to their children,” he said. “What do they say?” It seemed he was asking me the question.
I was silent.
“They say, ‘until death do us part!’ They stay together always.”
So I understood him to be saying that he felt a Successor of Peter should not step down from the throne, no matter how weary and tired, but continue until death.
I felt the words he was speaking were the words of an argument that may have been used even among the cardinals, but of course, that may not be the case.
But I felt that I was catching a glimpse of how at least one cardinal was thinking about the Pope’s renunciation.
“Your eminence,” I said, “I’ve forgotten. Are you already above age 80, or not?
“I am not yet 80,” he told me.
“So you will be voting tomorrow.”
He nodded, and a look passed over his eyes which seemed filled with shadows and concerns. I was surprised at his intensity. I was surprised by the whole conversation.
He squeezed my hand. “Is there anything else I can do?” I asked.
“Pray for us,” he said. “Pray for us.”
He turned as if he needed to go.
“I have to go.”
He took a step away from me, then turned again.
“It is a dangerous time. Pray for us.”
A dangerous time indeed.