“The Cardinal Fathers, gathered at the Vatican for the General Congregations in view of the next Conclave, send you their devoted greetings and express their renewed gratitude for all your brilliant petrine ministry and for your example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world.”

Thus, the Cardinals gathered in Rome, greeted the Pope-Emeritus, His Holiness Benedict XVI, in a telegram sent to him earlier this week. The message concluded:

“With their gratitude [the Cardinals] hope to represent the recognition of the entire Church for your tireless work in the vineyard of the Lord.”

The sentiments of the Christian world, in particular, certainly resonate with the message of the Cardinals to the Pope-Emeritus. Nevertheless, speculation continues to run rampant among us as to who might emerge from the white smoke.

While the whole world waits, I thought I might present some of the points of interest that connect those of us who live in Wisconsin with the activity in Rome in a personal way.

Of the eleven voting cardinals from the United States, six of them are from the Midwestern part of the country! Cardinals Di Nardo and O’Malley make the cut by being born in Ohio—rural Ohio. Cardinal Francis George, our eminent neighbor from “south of the border” was born in Chicago.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, born in St. Louis, allows us to enter into the specific Wisconsin vision of cardinal red. Cardinal Dolan was also the Archbishop of Milwaukee (where he ordained me as the first bishop he ever ordained in his episcopacy). Next we have Cardinal James Harvey, born in Milwaukee and now the Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Basically, Cardinal Harvey has spent his entire priesthood in Rome in one job or another. He is the last Cardinal named by Pope Benedict XVI last November.

The main event for the Cardinals of Wisconsin is Cardinal Raymond Burke, a native son of our beloved Diocese, born in Richland Center and a former Bishop of this Diocese. He now serves in Rome as the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, or the “Supreme Court” of the Church.

So, it looks like there is sure a good turn-out of Cardinals in characteristic Wisconsin red and any one of them could certainly rise to the Petrine Ministry with distinction and humility. It is a wondrous thing for us to ponder as we think of these men entering the Sistine Chapel: we know some of these men personally. This election for the papacy is as personal as it gets in some ways—not only for us Americans, but for so many other people around the world who can lay claim and pride to knowing those who enter that Chapel filled with awe at the responsibility given to them by the grace of office and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray for God’s continued guidance of the Church founded by Jesus Christ and may we celebrate the mysteries of our faith in the knowledge of the Truth and the consolation of Our Lady’s touch.

O, yes, let’s join together at Sunday Mass!

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