Minnesotans recall humility, kindness from Cardinal Ratzinger visit

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger visited the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis in 1984, Father Lee Piche, then a 25-year old deacon who served at the cardinal’s Mass, says he remembers now Pope Benedict XVI for his kindness and his gentleness.

Fr. Piche recently told the St. Paul and Minneapolis Catholic Spirit, that he recalled the new Pope as “a very gentle, soft-spoken, self-effacing man — but very brilliant, very well-educated, so he brings a lot of gifts to the papacy.”

Father Michael Skluzacek, now rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul, then a staff member of St. John Vianney Seminary, which the cardinal visited in 1984, said that he was most struck by Ratzinger’s demeanor.

“He was so humble and gracious and friendly, and he smiled. And that’s why I was always a little confused when people spoke of him as such a tough man because my experience of him was that he’s a very gracious and friendly man.”

During his visit the then cardinal told the Archdiocese that the biggest challenge he saw facing the Church was showing what faith means “for us in our daily lives.”

Speaking on Moral Theology, Cardinal Ratzinger said: “We must show how faith and worship developed and that it is not something external to the problems of the world, but it is a necessity to solving the biggest problems of the world.”

Fr. Piche, for one, was left with a lasting impression of the man who would be the 265th Pope. “I remember being blown away by his grasp of history and theology and something to do with philosophy, too, as I recall. He’s like a professor type. That’s the way he impressed me — a man who loves learning and loves to teach.”

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