On Feb. 19, 2005, 17 days after the death of his predecessor —Pope John Paul — Pope Benedict’s Papacy began. With our eyes once again on the conclave convening in Rome, I offer a commemorative poem written the day Pope Benedict was elected.
The poems are taken from a group of selected poems titled: Seventeen Days. The collection of 51 poems was inspired by the poignant hours after the death of Karol Wojtyla; it was during the nine official days of mourning and the 17 days between the death of Pope John Paul and the election of Pope Benedict —while the world was on virtual pilgrimage to the Eternal City —that the collection was written.
Seventeen Days The days skulked past like relatives wandering in the graveyard, looking for names they might recognize. They counted the number of verses that attend them during this time of waiting. There are fifty-one. They had hoped to find eighty-four, one for each year of his life, but they can’t control the arrangement of headstones or the broken pencils and try to accept that fact. Is the telephone ringing? They are out of breath but answer anyway and a sister says: “Do you see white smoke?” They listen to the bells through the receiver. No time for good-byes now because in Rome everyone is running to St. Peter’s Square. The words: We Have a New Pope (Attesa Del Nuovo Papa!) are printed on the crawl at the bottom of the TV screen and the reporters seem shocked because it happened so quickly. But it has been seventeen days, seventeen very long days between the death of John Paul II and the election of this new one. Now that they have seen the white smoke imaginations willingly ponder the likely and the unlikely, the awaited 265th Pope. Now the flags wave, and even though everyone still misses the last one, they watch as crimson draperies fold, open like hands to the world, but suspense keeps them waiting. Who can he be and what will they call him? He once had an office down the hall, a friendly face, smiles recall him as none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Viva il Papa! And at last they hear the new Benedict’s proclamation: “...after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me -- a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord can work with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers,”