Benedict XVI and then-Msgr. Konrad Krajewski Benedict XVI and then-Msgr. Konrad Krajewski 

Cardinal Krajewski remembers Benedict XVI's caring and kindness

The Papal Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, shares his memories of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whom he served as a master of papal ceremonies, describing him as "a great theologian of great humanity."

By Benedetta Capelli

On 19 April 2005, the world focused on the central loggia of Saint Peter's Basilica where the new Pope would soon appear. The white smoke from the Sistine Chapel indicated that the cardinals had made their choice with enough votes on the fourth ballot to elect John Paul II's successor.

The pictures show the stained glass windows opening and the Cardinal Protodeacon Jorge Medina Estévez pronouncing the name of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. At the loggia with him, one of the papal masters of ceremonies holds the cross in his hands. It was the future Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.

"It was a very powerful moment in my life," Cardinal Krajewski told Vatican News, "I was in the papal apartment when John Paul II died, one of the most difficult and intense moments."

He recalled the preparation of the conclave, when he made himself available to the cardinals for the preparation of the papal funeral. He gained special appreciation for his commitment and dedication in the preparation of the Mass celebrated in Łódz, the cardinal's home town, during John Paul II's third journey to Poland in 1987. At that time, Krajewski was a seminarian. 

Together with Pope Benedict at the Loggia of Blessings

With his great sorrow at losing his beloved pope, Cardinal Krajewski assisted Archbishop Piero Marini, master of papal liturgical celebrations.

"When Cardinal Ratzinger was chosen, there in the Sistine Chapel, Archbishop Marini told me that I had to carry the processional cross ahead of the Holy Father. 'When they open the curtains,' the Archbishop added, 'you will go out first and then the Pope will follow with the master of ceremonies.'"

Cardinal Krajewski smiled as he thought back to that moment, because he remembers the emotion of seeing Saint Peter's Square packed with people.

"The Holy Father then addressed the words we are familiar with. I followed the eight years of his pontificate as a master of ceremonies. I made many journeys and all the celebrations in Rome and Italy."

Then Msgr. Krajewski with Pope Benedict
Then Msgr. Krajewski with Pope Benedict

Kind and simple

There are several aspects of the personality of the Pope Emeritus that Cardinal Krajewski remembers most.

"What I remember," he said, "is his great kindness, his simplicity. We were young, I was 17 years younger...he was very friendly. He was interested in my name, Konrad, which is more of a German name than a Polish one. Then when my mother died he asked me how it happened and how old she was. He was very, very simple, very friendly, very gentle."

These are traits that many during these days of mourning have often mentioned. "I remember these highlights of his pontificate. He was a great theologian, a professor, different in style from John Paul II, but he was so cordial, so open to all of us, very attentive even to us, his ordinary masters of ceremonies."

Cardinal Krajewski recalls the atmosphere of those days, the sorrow in losing Pope John Paul II, and his "broken heart," but also the new pope who was about to write new pages in the Church's history.

"Now I am again in mourning," the Cardinal concluded, "but I thank the Lord for this great pontificate because we are truly blessed to have these popes who are truly holy, who guide us with clarity and above all with the holiness of their lives. I pray so much for Benedict and for the Church."

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03 January 2023, 14:26