With broad smiles, a buoyant Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said Tuesday the College of Cardinals had chosen a man he has known and worked with in Rome, and “he is a pope that carries on the traditions of John Paul II.”
“I am very grateful for the one who was chosen, and I have not doubt that this is God’s choice,” Olmsted said.
The bishop, who leads the Phoenix Catholic Diocese, was about to speak to seniors Tuesday morning at Seton Catholic High School in Chandler when he got word that a new pope had been chosen. But it wasn't until after Olmsted started his talk that teachers fed him the name of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who subsequently selected the name of Pope Benedict XVI. He said it was a thrill to be first to tell the students about their new Holy Father.
Olmsted said that when he worked for the Secretariat of the Holy See in the
Vatican from 1979 to 1988, he had contact with Ratzinger in church work and on the street.
“We worked for the Holy Father at the same time,” Olmsted said. “He lived on one side of St. Peter’s Square and he walked across the square to get to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, and I lived on the other side of the square and walked across to get to the Secretariat of State, and we often passed right in front of St. Peter’s, and we would just nod to each other.”
“I got to know him quite well during my time when I worked there,” he said, noting that he and bishops met last June with Ratzinger during Olmsted's “ad lumina” trip as required by bishops every five years. Olmsted, who at 58 is the same age as Pope John Paul II was when he was elected in 1978, said Pope Benedict XVI was soundly schooled in the work of the papacy because of his long tenure in Rome, working with his predecessor. “I think he is a pope who will carry on the traditions of John Paul II,” Olmsted said. “I don‘t know how long the Lord will give him to serve in the church.” He noted that the new pope was starting his papacy 20 years older than his predecessor.
“I don’t think he sees himself as having the same personality of John Paul II,” Olmsted said, adding that he thinks Benedict, who is fluent in many languages, will “travel to the degree that he is able.”
“We cannot expect the new pope to be like the previous pope. He will be himself,” the bishop said. The 2005 World Youth Day, already scheduled for mid-August in Cologne, Germany, is traditionally hosted by the pope. “I can’t imagine what World Youth Day will be like this year. ... When returning to Germany (he) will be one of its native sons. This will be an historic moment,” the bishop said.
Seton sophomore Alissa Oakes said she would have preferred selection of a younger pope. She said Pope Benedict’s reign might last only seven or eight years. “I think I would want a more permanent pope, someone who will be there for a while ... and have more of a chance so we don’t have to do it all over again so soon,” she said.
Monica Koestner, a sophomore, said Seton students had been watching the events closely, especially through religious classes in which leading papal candidates were profiled, discussed their work and pressing church issues, but “we never discussed who we would want.”