Manassas Journal Messenger | Woodbridge priest recalls meeting future pope

The Rev. Richard Carr of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Woodbridge told parishioners in a recent homily that certain world events are of such magnitude, and often negative connotation, that people remember where they were when the event occurred.

For Carr, the day that new Pope Benedict XVI was elected was one of those days — a day he will always remember as a happy world event in his lifetime.

The priest was alone in his car on the way to his parents’ home when the name he had been praying to hear came over the radio.

Carr, who had met Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger more than six years before, said he immediately spread the exciting news.

“I then arrived at my parents’ home in Manassas and joyfully embraced my mom at the door. We couldn’t have been happier,” Carr told his parishioners.

He then shared “a little treasure” with parishioners — a photo taken in 1998 of himself, his family and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, whom they met when Carr’s brother Matthew, also a priest, was in seminary in Rome. The group met Ratzinger outside the German College of the Vatican.

Carr described Ratzinger as “humble, friendly and kind,” and said that neither he nor his family suspected that Ratzinger would some day become the pope.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be honest with you,” Carr said. “It’s a great joy. I think he will do some rather amazing things for the church and can build on the many successes of Pope John Paul II.”

The new pope, a strong pro-life advocate, was the top official under Pope John Paul II. He now leads the Roman Catholic Church, an organization of more than a billion members.

Pope Benedict XVI, a conservative, opposes human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, gay marriage and the possibility of female clergy.

In his sermon, Carr said some have suggested that Pope Benedict XVI should change some of the “unpopular policies” of the former pope by approving contraception, same-sex acts and women’s ordination to satisfy unhappy Catholics who feel estranged from the church.

“What the media calls policies are often unchanging and definitive teachings of the church based often on the commandments,” Carr said. “So he can’t just change these teachings to make certain Catholics happy.”

Leaders of area Roman Catholic churches recently spoke out about the new pope, formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German-born, self-described “simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.”

The Rev. David Meng of St. William of York Catholic Church in North Stafford called the new pope a wonderful gift. His brilliance and holiness shines, Meng said.

“I am thrilled,” Meng said. “I think he is wonderful — a marvelous challenge to us all. Everyone I’ve spoken to about it has been happy and thrilled.”

Ratzinger, 78, was thought to be a front-runner in the election, but many considered him too old to become pope. On April 19 after four rounds of balloting in 24 hours, Ratzinger was elected to succeed Pope John Paul II. It was reportedly one of the quickest elections in a century.

Meng said he doesn’t believe the new pope’s age will matter. In fact, he said, talk of the pope’s age reminded him of former President Ronald Reagan, who at 73 years old, humorously dismissed criticism about his age in a 1984 presidential debate with Walter Mondale. Reagan said that he would not make age an issue of the campaign.

Controversy over the new pope exists in people’s minds, Meng said, but not in reality. Many who claim that the pope is controversial are reacting from hearsay, he said.

Cardinal Ratzinger was formally installed as the new pope in front of a crowd of 350,000, just over two weeks after 84-year-old Pope John Paul II died April 2 in his Vatican apartment in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI will do what he needs to do, and what he was called to do, Meng said, adding that he often thinks of Pope John Paul II.

“I’ll miss him terribly,” Meng said.

Pope John Paul II died following complications from a urinary tract infection, a bout with the flu and ongoing respiratory problems.

He had been frail for years from various ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, but the cause of death was reportedly septic shock and cardiocirculatory collapse.


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