Friday, September 15, 2006


In this week's edition of The Tablet, Rome correspondent Robert Mickens writes from Bavaria, observing the notable reception its native son got earlier in the week:
The hundreds of thousands of people who turned out for the variety of papal events eagerly cheered the Pope. The affectionate welcome was especially notable given that, up until just a couple of years ago, the former Herr Kardinal could have hardly expected more than "polite" greetings from most people during his annual visits. But then he was still the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, a job he assumed after nearly five difficult years as Archbishop of Munich. But judging by this past week, it seemed that those days have long been forgotten.

"People really love him," said Notker Wolf OSB, the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation. The Bavarian monk, who is now based in Rome, was a commentator for the regional German television station that provided round-the-clock coverage of the papal visit. The abbot said that the Pope had won people over with his message. "He is just preaching the love of God. He is saying, ‘Listen, God is different from what you think.' For us in Germany, God has been the bookkeeper, writing down all your sins ... And that is just the opposite from what the Pope is bringing us now. He removed the fear. He speaks of another God - who liberates us and loves us ..."
Mickens, it should be noted, had the honour of flying on the Volo Papale -- the papal plane -- to and from the homecoming trip. Even more notable, however, is the speculation aired in his weekly column, known for this week as the "Letter from Bavaria."

As Cardinal Frederich Wetter, Joseph Ratzinger's direct successor as archbishop of Munich and Freising, turns 79 in February, Mickens cites "the talk in Bavarian church circles" that the succession could fall to none other than Msgr Georg Ganswein, Benedict's private secretary.

Ganswein, who's become famous in his own right since his boss' election, recently turned 50 and was named a prelate of honor by Benedict, entitling him to the full violet cassock of the middle grade of papal honors for the clergy. Before entering the direct service of Cardinal Ratzinger, he served as a lower level official in the CDF and a professor of canon law at Rome's University of the Holy Cross, an institute of Opus Dei.

Whether Benedict will part with his closest aide and send him home in his stead remains to be seen. However, for those who would doubt it given Ganswein's relative youthfulness, Mickens reminds us that "Paul VI made such an appointment in 1977."

The appointee? Joseph Ratzinger, of course.