Saying farewell to the Holy Father

As you know, this week I departed for Rome to be present for the many important events that are taking place at this time and to prepare for the conclave at which we will choose the next Holy Father.

As I mentioned in my post last week, before I left for Rome I visited the Carmelite convent in Roxbury, particularly to ask for their prayers during this important time for the Church and for Pope Benedict XVI. I have been thinking about them during this time, and knowing that they are praying for me is a great consolation.



This week it has been my privilege to be present for many significant moments in the life of the Church, but before I reflect on those, I would like to share with you a few events that I participated in before my departure.

– – –

Friday afternoon I celebrated a Mass at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary at which five Boston candidates and several others received the admission to candidacy.


Admission to candidacy is what replaced the former ceremony of tonsure, with which one entered the clerical state. Though now with admission to candidacy seminarians begin to dress in clerical attire, they are not technically clerics until they are ordained deacons.


This and the other ministries before ordination are sacramentals that help prepare the men spiritually and are markers as they move toward ordination. It is a time for a renewed commitment to the process of preparation for orders, and a sign of the seriousness with which the candidates must take the preparation for their vocation.


– – –

Sunday, I went to New York for a Lenten Vespers service at St. Catherine of Siena parish where Father Jordan Kelly OP is the pastor.

I preached on mercy and forgiveness as part of their Lenten series.



They have some beautiful altars in the parish

– – –

I returned immediately after that to Boston because the next day we had a Holy Hour with the staff to pray for the upcoming conclave and the Holy Father, at the Pastoral Center.

– – –

In the evening, I met with leaders of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston.

We discussed a number of issues including the planning of this year’s Red Mass for members of the legal profession and what some of my hopes are for them during this Year of Faith. We also discussed the pro bono work which is being done by the Lawyers Guild and ways that this may be expanded going forward.

– – –

Tuesday, I departed for Rome. When we arrived at the airport, we learned there was a problem with the flight and there was a concern that we would not be able to make a connection in New York that would bring me into Rome in time to meet with the Holy Father.

The people at Logan Airport went to great lengths to find a flight more assured to arrive on time. They were very gracious to us and I am very grateful to them for all their help.

As I was waiting for my plane, I had an opportunity to greet several of the workers and law enforcement officers.



Finally they arranged for us to take  an Air France flight into Paris.


It was a nice surprise to see Cardinal Levada at the airport in Paris. He was on the same flight to Rome on the second leg of our journey.

Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

– – –

While in Rome awaiting the conclave, we are staying at the Pontifical North American College with the rest of the Cardinals from the United States.

Thursday morning we departed together for the meeting with the Holy Father in the Sala Clementina.

Cardinals Francis George and Edward Egan board a bus at Pontifical North American College in Rome on their way to a final meeting with Pope Benedict XVI February 28, 2013.
Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
Cardinals Roger Mahony, Daniel DiNardo, Justin Rigali and Donald Wuerl leave the Pontifical North American College in Rome on their way to a final meeting with Pope Benedict XVI February 28, 2013.
Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley leave the Pontifical North American College in Rome on their way to a final meeting with Pope Benedict XVI February 28, 2013.
Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

The Holy Father gave us a brief address and then each of us had an opportunity to speak with him personally to thank him and bid him farewell.

The Holy Father’s words to us were very touching. He told us that he is looking forward to the election of the new Pope and that he will put himself at the new Pope’s disposal with all obedience, respect and reverence. He also spoke to us about the mystery of the Church and the need for unity among the Cardinals, comparing us to an orchestra which is made up of different instruments but must be played in harmony.



While we were waiting for the Holy Father to arrive, I took these photos with my iPhone


When I spoke to the Holy Father, I assured him of the prayers of the people of Boston. I told him how much we love him and are grateful for all he has done for us, and I assured him of our prayers moving forward.



  – – –

In the afternoon I went to St. Peter’s Square to witness the Holy Father’s departure by helicopter. There were many thousands of people there waiting to see him take


There were many cries “Viva il Papa!” and, when he flew over, there were many flags laid on the ground so that the Holy Father would see them from the air.The helicopter carrying Pope Benedict passes the dome of St. Peter's Basilica February 28.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  TracyThe helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI passes over The Pontifical North American College in Rome Feb. 28.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  Tracy

– – –

That evening we had a press conference back at the North American College where Cardinal George, Cardinal DiNardo and myself answered questions for the media, all of which I thought were good and very thought-provoking.

Cardinals O'Malley, DiNardo and George speak to the media Feb. 28, 2013. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

One in particular was a question by John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter. He asked us what we would be doing at 8pm, the time when the “sede vacante” actually began.

At the time we answered that we were probably be having dinner or meeting with friends. For most of us, I think, until he brought that to our attention, the meeting earlier with the Holy Father, and witnessing the takeoff of the helicopter had been so much of the focus of the day.

Cardinals O'Malley, DiNardo and George speak to the media Feb. 28, 2013. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

However, the question did make me think and as it turned out, at 8 p.m. we were watching television, witnessing the closing of the Apostolic Palace and we stopped and said a prayer for the Holy Father.



Six men pray the rosary in Spanish in front of St. Peter's Basilica Feb. 28, minutes after the period of Sede Vacante began.  Pilot photo/Gregory L.  Tracy

– – –

Back in Boston churches rang their bells for the last eight minutes of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, one minute for each year of his papacy, as I requested before I left. The Pilot ran this story on their website that I want to share with you.

At the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, back in Boston, Bishop Deeley celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Holy Father that evening at 7:30, Boston time.




I heard it was well attended, and it was an opportunity to mark the end of Pope Benedict’s pontificate and to pray for him as he begins, in his own beautiful words, the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.

We are living through very momentous times in the life of the Church, so I ask now for your prayers that the Holy Spirit will inspire us as we will gather soon in conclave to elect our new Holy Father.

Until my next post.

In Christ,

Cardinal Seán

18 thoughts on “Saying farewell to the Holy Father”

  1. Thank you for sharing your weekly news as usual and also your journey to Rome and the first part of the time you’re spending there. I think the conclave is a very moving experience, both spiritually and humanly… and if (I’m sure) it is living it personally, it’s also a good moment for us, simple believers, to see God’s Love and Grace shown by “real people”, to remember how concrete and close His gifts are. It has been interesting to follow your opinions almost everywhere these days, and I’m glad I discovered this space where I can keep up-to-date about your news. Thank you! 🙂

  2. …..Eminenza Carissima, molti Italiani hanno pregato per Lei affinche’ diventasse pontefice, ma bisogna dare precedenza allo Spirito Santo.
    Venga a Messina in Sicilia a visitarci, saremmo lieti di poterLa accogliere con Gioia Francescana.

    Sia Lodato Gesu’ Cristo

    Giovanni Tomasello dei Tomacelli-Colonna
    via Calabrella Residence Plaza
    98155 Castanea delle Furie Messina Italiy

  3. Eminence,
    What a pity the Church didn’t choose you as our next Pope. You are the best example of Christian spirit and renovation.They wasted a great opportunity for all the world!

    I hope to meet you in future.
    Alessandra Cannelli

  4. Thank you so much Cardinal Sean for sharing your journey. What a wonderful story you are sharing with all. As with everyone outside the Vatican we anxiously await the decision of the Conclave. I know that God will work through you and the others for the good of your people. Thy Will Be Done.

  5. May the works, words and spirit of Christ fill the conclave, I am a lapsed catholic who yearns for a more honest,simple approach to life and religion. A truly Christian approach would be refreshing! I am relieved to see the cleaning within the church itself and would encourage further transparency.We really don’t need a new path, we need to emulate Christ actions on earth.When we do that then we are all on the right path.

    Slan agus Beannacht!

    La Fheile Padraig shona duit.

  6. May God bless you and illuminate you these days!
    By the time you read these lines, a new Holy Father will be elected.
    I just hope for a change, don´t be afraid of change, we all need a change. I just wish to see Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits… back in Rome, and no more “prelatures” that only wish a step back.

    Prayers from Spain

  7. Its very interesting that there is some one in the church so commited to be in contact with the flock. thanks 😀

  8. Cardinal Sean,
    I am praying for you as you enter the conclave tomorrow. I think you would make a wonderful Pope. I’m sure thinking of that is a heavy burden, but God will reveal to you if he wants you for the job, and if so I will be praying for you.

  9. Cardinal Seán: I saw and listened to you at Fatima on the mass of the 13th May,2011. We celebrated the beatification of John Paul,II, and we had that surprisingly and touching atmospheric phenomena by which our Lady made herself present. Pope John was the Pope of Fatima and he revived the importance of Our Lady as mother of the church. Yesterday during the sunday mass I realized that you could become the new Pope. What a responsability and load! I pray for the Holy Spirit be with you and all the cardinals during the conclave. Dont be afraid. Follow Mary on the footsteps of the Caivário, Mater dolorosa but Mater amorosa. We all wayt for you at Fatima, next. The Lord be with you.

  10. In the next days I’ll pray for cardinal Sean because I hope he will be the new Holy Father. Our church needs to have a Pope how Sean.
    With love, Lisa (an italian young girl)

  11. Sanctuary house is a Marian apostolate that honors the sufferings of Christ with men some even inmates in the USA as laity brothers of the passion of Christ in Albany NY since 1985. Hope you are the holy spirits choice but I know I could never handle such a job … All the best always

    Frank FAAS
    76 but not mentally : )

  12. Cardinal O’Malley,
    I am a cradle Catholic, and even when I was a teenager, I regularly attended weekly Liturgy and found these events a great strength,especially when I experienced the death of my parents and my one brother. It is now with the gretest of pain that I speak of the great struggle of conscience I am now experiencing reconciling the actions of a handful of clerics that betrayed the faith of those who experienced sexual abuse. I do not know how to think on this. God and I have been hassling this issue out; I will always believe in what theChurch teaches and its precepts.
    I currently reside in rhe town of Leavenworth, KS, and I pray daily for God to show me where He will have me serve Him. I am not perfect;Ihave tried to love my husband, raise my grown daughter, and show compassion for the animals given to us to steward. I pray for the things God lays on my heart by thenudgings of the Holy Spirit
    You will be in my prayers as you and your brethren choose who will lead the Church in this time of great crisis and decision. I remember that when my daughtee was confirmed, she chose the name of Petra, because Peter was human, and desired to do what God had for him. I hope the cardinals will truly listen to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit.
    Thank you for listening to the musings of someone as humble as myself.
    Susan M. DePaul

  13. Dear Cardinal Seán! As an alumnus of St. John’s Seminary who had the chance to meet you several times (first when you were still bishop of Fall River, last time in Rome during the pre-conclave of 2005), I want to assure you of my prayers for the coming conclave and for you in particular. The church truly needs a good shepherd, as you said. According to my judgement you fit that description rather well. After the terrible scandals the church needs to regain trust and confidence, and the curia needs a strong and loving hand. I believe you could do both. Please accept if you are chosen!

    In Christ, Rev. Stefan Reuffurth
    (dean and pastor in Vienna/Austria)

  14. Dear Cardinal Sean, I am praying for you and all the cardinals at the conclave. Raymond A from EWTN and other priests were discussing you tonight with other cardinals who might become our next Pope. It was very exciting to hear and i thought what an awesome responsibility for you to be a candidate. I am from Corpus Christi Parish in Sandwich. I will pray to our lady to watch over you with her tender care as you go into the conclave. I believe that the Holy Spirit will surround you with knowledge and guide your instincts in all you do in the next several days. i’m glued to EWTN in prayers and Masses said for all of you there. I know you have a round trip ticket to home but if they ask you,,,,i hope you say Yes. God Bless you Sheila O’Shaughnessy

  15. Eminenza carissima, desidero assicurarle la mia preghiera. In Parrocchia ho proposto l’ADOZIONE SPIRITUALE di un cardinale, per questo Conclave. A me è toccato pregare per lei e ne sono onorato e molto lieto. La accompagno nella preghiera con grande gioia. Io pregherò per tutti voi Padri Cardinali, ma in particolare per lei e per il caro Cardinale Comastri.
    Mi permetto di inviarle, da figlio, un forte abbraccio e chiedo la Sua Benedizione.
    La Madonna Le sia accanto.
    Con affetto filiale,
    don Raimondo Di Rienzo,
    Arcidiocesi di Sorrento-Castellammare di Stabia (Napoli – Italia)

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