Editor’s note: During the next few weeks as we watch an historic episode in our Church’s history unfold, I’m thrilled to be able share writing from our friends at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Tonight, we have a firsthand account from Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the media relations director for the USCCB. Enjoy! LMH
Media were here early for this historic day, February 28. An ABC producer even helped me find a cappuccino at North American College while waiting for George Stephanopoulos to go up on the roof for his interview with Cardinal Dolan.
Both voting cardinals and those over 80 left for the Vatican at 10:15 a.m. to say goodbye to Pope Benedict. There’s both a prayerful and excited atmosphere here at this historic moment. I viewed the meeting on CNN, which we have on all the time. We started out looking at BBC but switched to CNN when one of its staffers came in and expressed mock horror at our supposed viewing indiscretion.
CNN asked me to be on their morning program. The set was scaffolding on Via Della Conciliazione. I asked a reporter what Soledad O’Brien would ask about and he said, “Heck, it’s a morning show. No problem.” So as people were having coffee, Soledad queried me on the sexual abuse crisis. Swallow that with your bagel. I got a ride back to NAC with Christiana Amanpour, who was on her way to NAC to interview Cardinal Dolan in the NAC courtyard.
CNN stayed to cover live our presser at 6:30 p.m. with Cardinals Francis George of Chicago, Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Sean O’Malley of Boston. Topic was reaction to today’s meeting with the pope. .About 50 media showed up, eight of them cameramen. There were some laughs. When asked how their lives would change when the pope officially resigned at 8 p.m., Cardinal George opined that given the possibilities, seminarians might look at him with more respect than he gets now. Asked who they would recommend to be next pope, Cardinal DiNardo trying to dodge the question, saying, “Cardinal O’Malley” as he passed him the microphone.
Don Clemmer of our media relations office is capturing on camera some behind-the-scene moments. We’re posting them on our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/USCCB. In one, you feel like you can hear Cardinal Dolan smile.
We’ve increased Spanish-language services, an effort that Mar Munoz-Visoso is spearheading here. Cardinal O’Malley and Cardinal McCarrick, who are fluent in Spanish, are invaluable in this effort.
We’ll be without power for two hours tomorrow morning, as the college changes from one transformer to another. No lights, no power for the routers, no elevators. I hope that the sun will be bright for our morning meeting with communication directors.
I did get some time to think while waiting an hour for my one-minute CNN moment. I asked for a chair in the sun while I waited and enjoyed a light breeze. It was a perfect Roman experience, reminding me, as Robert Browning wrote, that “God’s in His heaven – All’s right with the world!”
Sister Mary Ann Walsh is media relations director for the USCCB.