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Cardinal Bertone's Address on Papal Elections Exhibit

"An Undertaking That Highlights the Mysterious Action of God"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the Vatican translation of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's Dec. 7 address at the inauguration of the exhibit "'Habemus Papam': Pontifical Elections From St. Peter to Benedict XVI."

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Your Eminences, Your Most Reverend Excellencies, Mr President of the Province, Distinguished Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like first of all to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to those who contributed to setting up the important Exhibition we are inaugurating this evening.

It is entitled: "'Habemus Papam': Pontifical elections from St Peter to Benedict XVI". On behalf of His Holiness, I would like to thank Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, Honorary President of the Technical Committee of the project who planned the Exhibition, Dr Enrico Gasbarra, President of the Province of Rome, Dr Giuseppe Lepore, President of the European Centre for Tourism, Dr Francesco Buranelli, Director of the Vatican Museums, and the representatives of many Vatican and Italian institutions which offered their collaboration in setting up this impressive display.

I respectfully greet the Cardinals present, the civil and military Authorities and those figures who have desired to grace this solemn and important event with their presence. I extend a special greeting to Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governorate. Lastly, I extend my greetings to everyone present.

I take the floor after the distinguished speakers who have preceded me in order to say at the outset that this Exhibition is a "unique" event of its kind, primarily because of the place in which it is on display, that is, the official reception rooms in the Lateran's Apostolic Palace.

This was the official home of the Roman Pontiffs until their exile in Avignon, and since 1377 it has hosted a large number of conclaves. If these rooms could speak, they would tell us of the many happenings that accompanied the election of the Pontiffs.

This Exhibition is also unique because it offers to the attention of visitors a particularly rich choice of art works from famous Vatican and Roman collections, each one carefully chosen to illustrate the process of Papal elections down the centuries, from that of Peter to that of Benedict XVI.

Such an undertaking, which as one can easily understand demanded patient research, was conceived in such a way that if on the one hand it offers the most complete picture possible of the historical development of the time, on the other, it does not fail to highlight the mysterious action of God who guides the Church, founded on Peter and on his legitimate Successors, with his providence.

In fact, by the Redeemer's expressly declared desire, the Pope is the "rock" on which the spiritual edifice of ecclesial communion is founded. "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18).

Kefa, stone. To bring the Pope's indispensable role in the Church into focus we must start from these words of Christ. The eminent value of the Exhibition, taking place during the 500th anniversary of St Peter's Basilica and of the establishment of the Vatican Museums, lies in the fact that it helps people understand that it is always he, the Lord, who guides the choice of Supreme Pontiffs, even in circumstances marked at times by human frailty and political influence.

It is Christ who leads the Church with the power of his Spirit, entrusting her to his Vicar on earth: the Pope, "Servant of servants". And even when it might seem that intrigue, subterfuge and confrontation were prevailing, the Pope has never failed in his mission.

In this regard, during the Rite of Baptism of several infants in the beginning of this year in the Sistine Chapel, precisely where conclaves are held, the Holy Father Benedict XVI said that we do not know what will happen in the world in the future, in the next 100 or so years. Yet, we can be sure of one thing: the Church will exist until the end of time. And the Lord has made the Pope the solid foundation of the Church.

Despite its shadows, the history of the Church is thus a history of faith, love and zeal, as is clearly visible from the way in which the various sections of the Exhibition have been set forth.

In retracing the phases and procedures connected with the funerals of the Pontiffs, with the conclave, with the proclamation of the new Pope and with the ceremonies for his "accession", we realize what an important contribution to the Church's life numerous ecclesiastics have made. One can even feel the Christian people's participation, charged with strong spiritual emotion.

How can we forget, for example, the days of John Paul II's death, the Conclave and the election of Benedict XVI: what an impressive convergence of ...

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