No doubt I was not alone watching a live feed of the opening rites of the conclave. Was I alone in my impressions?
As each Eminence took the oath, there was something profoundly moving to see each one make his promise to God, and before the face of the whole Church. The live feed enabled Christians in every land to watch in real time this solemn process. The new media have allowed us to be, if not present at, then present to the cardinals as they enter conclave. It was a truly international moment.
This internationality was fostered by the use of Latin. How confusing would it have been to have each cardinal use his native tongue? Since the oath is in effect a public event, witnessed by the Church, how could we have known each man had made the correct oath in his language? During the proceedings, how would the precedence among the languages have been decided without someone feeling slighted on behalf of his conlinguists? No, if ever there was a powerful argument for Latin as a language for the international Church, this was certainly one. An element of charm was added by the different accents and pronunciations: the francophones rendering tango as “tongo”, or the germanophones using a hard “g” in evangelium, for example.
The broadcast revealed a wonderful mixture of the old and the new, technology and ancient ritual, the timeless present in this time. Such is the Church.
Anyway, Eminences. God bless you and guide you. We’re watching… and waiting…