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Friday, March 21, 2008

"Papal Visit 2008: Pope Benedict Returns To Yonkers Seminary After 20 Years"

By Shazia Khan

For NY1

March 20, 2008

In April, a Yonkers seminary will host Pope Benedict XVI, who visited the same place 20 years before as a cardinal. NY1’s Shazia Khan filed the following report.

Twenty years ago, Father Michael Morris was still a student at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, when a special guest from Vatican City paid a visit – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German man who will return to New York City in April as Pope Benedict XVI.

“The enthusiasm was incredible because we read his books," said Morris. "He's a scholar - that's his work. He's a teacher and he's a studier, he's a reader, he's a great student. And we were just thrilled to be able to meet him.”

Back in 1988, Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responsible for defending the church orthodoxy. He came to be known as “Cardinal No,” even “God's Rottweiler” for his strict adherence to the doctrine.

This April, Ratzinger will go back to St. Joseph’s Seminary as part of his papal visit.

“The pope's job is to proclaim the message of our faith in Jesus Christ and proclaim what that means and how people must live their lives and how to develop it,” said Father Gerard Rafferty, a professor at St. Joseph’s Seminary.

“In his last job, he was given the task of looking at what other people were doing and proclaiming and then trying to evaluate and help them evaluate whether in fact they were remaining consistent to the church,” said Rafferty.

St Joseph's has visiting cardinals plant a tree to commemorate their visits, and the tree Pope Benedict planted 20 years ago has now grown tall.

Another tree was planted in remembrance of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the seminary in 1995, the first visit made by a pontiff to the institution.

Bishop Gerald Walsh, the seminary’s rector, will join Edward Cardinal Egan to welcome the pope who will first greet seminarians before meeting a small group of children with disabilities in the chapel. He will then step outside and on to a stage to address more than 20,000 young Catholics, some of whom might be interested in religious vocations.

“The theme will be - make room for the Lord in your life, listen to what he is saying, and try to live your life the best you can,” said Walsh.

Seminarians are looking forward to being reintroduced to the scholarly pope.

“It’s not the rock star image of perhaps John Paul II, but there is a very solid, quiet teacher here that's got a power in the word the way he unfolds it,” said Rafferty.

And though it has been twenty years since the pope’s last visit, it might as well have been yesterday.

“Physically he looks exactly the same - I mean it is amazing- the only thing different about him is he is wearing white now,” said Morris.

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