When Pope John Paul II died, the Dean of the College of Cardinals celebrated his funeral in St. Peter's Square. It was the first time the world closely watched Joseph Ratzinger.
Aside from presiding over the funeral, he was also responsible for leading the College of Cardinals as they chose a successor to Pope John Paul II. It would not be easy. Finding someone with the courage to rule the Church after the popular pontiff was difficult.
The conclave began on Monday, April 18th with a Mass to ask for help from the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Ratzinger, who had already become a strong candidate, celebrated the Mass.
"In this hour, we insistently ask the Lord that after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, we again receive a pastor with his strength of heart.”
The 115 cardinals under the age of 80 entered the Sistine Chapel at 4:00 p.m. They swore they would vote unencumbered by pressure and would keep secret what happened there.
A few hours later, the first message from the Sistine Chapel came: Black smoke.
There wasn't a new pope the morning April 19th either. After three ballots, the cardinals had not yet come to a consensus.
However, by mid-afternoon, the situation changed. White smoke colored the sky of Rome. And so the people received the news.
Joseph Ratzinger had just become the 265th successor of St. Peter. With just four ballots, it was one of the fastest conclaves in history.
"Dear brothers and sisters after the great Pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the Lord's vineyard. The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all, I entrust myself to your prayers.”
The first thing he did was visit his colleagues in what had been his office of 23 years: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"Holiness, welcome among us and thank you for this visit."
"Still I can not believe I'm now somewhere else. What the Lord has said to Peter has been done: There will come a day where you will be guided where you do not want to go.”
They gave him a cake. It was already prepared, because four days earlier he had turned 78.
A few days later, the Pope told German pilgrims how he felt.
"When, little by little, the trend of the voting led me to understand that, to say it simply, the axe was going to fall on me, my head began to spin...With profound conviction I said to the Lord: Do not do this to me! You have younger and better people at your disposal who can face this great responsibility with greater dynamism and greater strength.”
He also started his new life without his extensive library. The professor Pope needed his books, and so he left the Vatican to go to his old home and prepare his first speeches in his library.
Unbeknown to him, word spread quickly and hundreds of people waited to see him at his door.
He never got used to fame. But with his shyness, Pope Benedict XVI won over those who were able to see him up close.