(NYT) The American contender kissed babies and joked about bad food inside the papal conclave. The Brazilian blessed a couple on their 70th anniversary. The Italian blessed a pack of journalists, and a baby, too. The reserved Hungarian did not kiss anybody.
If a papal election resembled an ordinary campaign, Sunday in Rome would have vibrated with the high-wire intensity of the final hours of the Iowa caucus, when candidates sprint from cornfield to cornfield and beg for votes. Most of the 115 cardinals who will elect the new pope â€” and who themselves form the pool of papal candidates â€” scattered out to Roman Catholic churches in Rome to offer Lenten homilies for the equivalent of last-minute campaign appearances.
But with two days before the papal conclave begins, the cardinals instead carefully adhered to what might be called the art of running for pope, which means never, ever appearing to be running. And that left everyone who is trying to game the race â€” the estimated 5,000 journalists now in Rome, along with much of the Catholic world â€” with little to do but interpret gestures and to measure papal intangibles:
Did the Brazilian, Odilo Pedro Scherer, archbishop of SÃ£o Paulo, exude a papal benevolence in the gentle way he touched the cheeks of the elderly couple that unexpectedly sought an anniversary blessing? Did the quiet grace of Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, bespeak a papal dignity? Or what about the Hungarian, Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom- Budapest? True, he did not smile much, if at all, but might his steely discipline and intelligence offer what is needed for a Vatican in disarray? [More]