Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More Ingrid

Last week, I was sent this piece from the 19th July Berliner Zeitung in its original language with the message, "I hope you read German."

Regrettably, I don't -- but that's what the Secretariat of State is for. So with thanks to a Lady of the Papal Family and the Latin and German desks, I'm pleased to post a really beautiful English translation.

And to remind those who haven't yet seen it, I wrote much of this a long time ago....

Dumplings for the Pope

The Rheinlander Ingrid Stampa is the housekeeper for Benedict XVI. In the Vatican she is also regarded as his closest confidant.

Bernhard Huelsebusch

Rome, in July. When she, a few steps behind him, accompanied the white-clad Pontiff on his first appearance in the Vatican, she was clothed mostly in black. Thus it was when Benedict XVI inspected the papal apartments in the Vatican for the first time, into which he then entered and into which she, at a fitting distance, followed him. Ingrid Stampa-thin (gaunt), dark hair, glasses-remains always in the background. Nevertheless, the 55-year old German is, if one believes one papal biographer, his closes confidant. She has not only been his housekeeper for many years, but also the advisor of the amateur pianist Ratzinger in musical and literary matters.

Ingrid Stampa comes from Niederrhein, from the area of Kleve. Although a believing Catholic, she began her career in chiefly Protestant Hamburg, where she, playing a magnficient viola de gamba, advanced to the rank of professor at the College of Music. With regard to her Italian last name, it is said in Rome that she was married to an Italian, who however-caring devotedly for her-died after a short time. Actually, Ms. Stampa was, in her own words, married to music. "I have sacrificed everything else for its sake," she says.

A Woman of Music

At the end of the 80's the equally pious and resolute German came to Rome. 1991 Maria Ratzinger, the sister of the Bavarian cardinal, who had supervised the household of her brother for thirty years, died there.

Through the offices of Renato Buzonetti, the papal physician, Ingrid Stampa took over her position. Thereafter, the Rhinelander cared for the physical and in certain ways the psychological wellbeing of Ratzinger, the Protector of the Faith. According to papal biographer Peter Seewald, she at first prepared Italian cuisine for him, but then learned to cook for the cardinal his favorite dishes from his Bavarian homeland: apple strudel, steamed noodles, and bread dumplings.

On the terrace of Ratzinger's apartment situated immediately next to St. Peter's Square she created for him a meditative place of stillness, a roof garden, which she lovingly tended. Ingrid Stampa attended to the necessary shopping on her bicycle. Between the "Man of the Faith" and the "Woman of Music" there developed a trust, indeed a deep friendship. Seewald writes that when Ratzinger worked without stopping on the documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, she placed sandwiches on his desk, which he usually left untouched until his work was completed. And when the cardinal required something, he dialed her cell phone number.

Since Ingrid Stampa speaks Polish well, she moreover translated several books of Pope Wojtyla into German. At the beginning of April, 2005, just as she had completed the German version of Karol Wojtyla's "Memory and Identity", John Paul II died in the Vatican. On April 19 the conclave chose Joseph Ratzinger, Ingrid Stampa's boss, to be the new pope.

When she saw the white smoke ascend from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, recalls the German, she ran to nearby St. Peter's Square and sought, an acquaintance recalls, to learn the details. But the cell phone network had collapsed. "As I then heard the words, 'Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger", I broke out in tears, overcome. I had never though that this would come to pass."

Even before the dinner in the Vatican's Saint Martha Guesthouse shortly after the papal election, at which the members of the conclave gathered, Benedict XVI, alias Joseph Ratzinger, came to her and said, "God has willed it so. Let us both follow the will of God."

Ingrid Stampa, so it is said all along the Tiber, offers the new pope a home in the Eternal City. Ingrid Stampa once described herself as a "free, foreign bird in the Vatican." The Ratzinger biographer Peter Seewald writes, she is a free bird who animates the Pope.

Not much new, but still great stuff.



Blogger Christopher Trottier said...

Looks like some pretty heady stuff.

26/7/05 23:16  
Blogger Vonshui said...

Ingrid is, as german ecclesiastical women go, "Typisch Deutsch". Even down to the choice of black. A great friend of mine, now deceased, was an accomplished "retired" European aristocrat who had much energy and devotion to the church in Bavaria, ever with sanctimonious quotes and her favorite walnut liqueur to offer her guests, always friendly and animated but never having an overbearing presence. Her presence and self, like Jesus', were "gerade genug", just enough. We should all expect a very lively, active and pioneering papacy from the world's newest power "couple".

27/7/05 02:21  
Blogger Petra said...

A little correction: it was not her deceased husband who "cared devotedly for her", but it was in fact she who gave him care devotedly (i. e. until he died).

27/7/05 06:43  

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