Religion

Before the White Smoke Rises

Living and teaching in Rome at the Gregorian University from 1973 to 2006 provided a front row seat for much recent papal history. I joined the congregation for the funeral Mass of Paul VI (pope 1963–1978), distributed Holy Communion at the installation of John Paul I (pope 1978), and just over a month later attended his funeral in the rain. John Paul II (pope 1978–2005) began his pontificate by addressing the predominantly Italian crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square and asking them, “When I make mistakes in your—no, our—language, please correct me.” Clearly, no matter what other strengths the new…

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