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Cardinal Reinhard Marx (Photo B. Riegert/DW)
Image: DW/B.Riegert

Cardinal Marx

Interview: Bernd Riegert, Rome / jlw
March 15, 2013

Six German cardinals were allowed to vote for a new pope. One of those was Reinhard Marx from Munich. In an interview with DW, Marx explains what he thinks of the decision.


DW: Your Eminence, that was your first conclave. What were your feelings? Are you allowed to talk about that, or is that also a secret?

Cardinal Reinhard Marx: No, I can talk about my feelings. It's a changing thing. Of course I've been in the corridors of the Sistine Chapel before, in the Capella Paolina, where there is the wonderful painting by Michelangelo. But when you're gathered for such an occasion, praying together, singing the Liturgy of Saints, and then are part of the procession to the Sistine Chapel, you'd have to be pretty callous not to be moved by that. Of course, you have images in your head thanks to films like "The Cardinal" or "The shoes of the Fisherman." I saw those, and other similar films, as a kid. I would never have dreamed that I would see it, that I would be here. I had to pinch myself at times, and ask myself, "Is this real? Are you the Reinhard Marx from Geske who's here and voting for the pope?" But it was true. It is so.

When the pope was chosen and was being dressed in the papal robes, you had some time to talk to the cardinal sitting next to you about what name the new pope would take. Was it a big surprise to you that he chose Francis?

Yes, that was a surprise to all of us, because it was a first. When he announced the name, Francis, and explained it was in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, it became clear to us. That is the first time in the history of the church that a pope has taken this name. It's moving, because you know that he wants to set an example, like other popes have done in the past. St. Benedict was important to him. Ora und labora, work and prayer. One of Europe's great spiritual figures. So this pope is the holy one of the poor.

The Pope arrived in white robes on the balcony of St. Peter's Cathedral. On Thursday morning, he rode in a simple vehicle to the Santa Maria Maggiore. Was this planned? Is it a sign that the church is poorer now, that they care more about those in need?

Yes, I think he wants to make that clear. He doesn't like all the pomp and ceremony. He's going to have to adapt to some things. He has to be able to move around. He must be willing to fly when he wants to go to Rio de Janiero for World Youth Day. That is clear, but he wants to [show]: this is not a church of pomp. He is, I believe, being cautious, and I think that's quite good.

First he's going to visit Pope Emiritus Benedict XVI. Is it surprising for you that the new pope wants to have such close contact?

No, I don't find it surprising, I think it's quite normal. He says, "I am now the Bishop of Rome and the Pope." That befits him, really - that he visits his predecessor and speaks with him. That's totally natural and OK. And his first visit, that was to the Virgin in Santa Maria Maggiore at the big painting of Grace, "Salus populi romani." For Roman Catholics, that's really important. This is a cherished image in the city of Rome. With this he showed, "I belong to you as your bishop."

During the conclave, theoretically every cardinal can be chosen. Did you also choose a name, just in case?

(Laughs.) No. The probability of that happening was so minimal that I wasn't going to waste time thinking about it. What would you call yourself? No, I didn't do it.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, 59, has been the Archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007. In 2010 he was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI. Marx took part in his first conclave and was one of six German cardinals eligible to vote.

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