As the congregation gathered Thursday night at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End, Bishop Robert P. Deeley said that although the Catholic Church is without its leader, a sense of calm remains.
“What is striking in all this is that there is no panic,” the bishop said in his homily. “There are many questions. That is inevitable with things which have not happened before.”
Pope Benedict XVI departed the Vatican for the last time as pope Thursday morning, becoming just the fifth pope in history to resign.
For eight minutes Thursday afternoon, one for each year of Benedict’s papacy, Catholic churches around Eastern Massachusetts rang their bells in honor of the pontiff.
Now, eyes turn to the College of Cardinals as it prepares to elect a new pope. Among them is Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, who leads the Archdiocese of Boston.
Deeley addressed the impending conclave and addressed the interest surrounding the papal election.
“There will, of course, be speculation, and there will be wondering about who among the cardinals will emerge from the electors,” he said.
“We are human, and we will therefore tend to look at the action which begins with the sede vacante, or ‘the seat being vacant,’ as a political process.”
After the Mass, parishioners said they agreed with Deeley that it is important to consider the historic context of the conclave.
“The process is connected to St. Peter, and we should think of it as being guided by the Holy Spirit, not just something that is decided by our personal whims,” Raymond Fermo, 31, of Boston said.
Deeley also spoke of the 2005 conclave, after the death of Pope John Paul II, which elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the papacy.
At that time, Deeley was working with Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.
“My colleagues were convinced long before I that he would be elected pope,” he said. “I guess that I just never considered that someone I might know would be elected pope.”
When asked about the prospect of O’Malley being elected pope, the bishop smiled and replied simply, “I’m not an elector.”
Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.