I have heard from curial old timers, and I do mean old, that if the Pope were to call on the telephone, you would hear the voice of the secretary say, "Il Papa parla… The Pope speaks." At that point you would get down on your knees (if you could) and wait. I imagine that that sort of thing went out with kissing the holy pantofola.
I posted a note about the story going around that the Holy Father may be making personal phone calls to French bishops to help them get on board Peter’s Barque in regard to derestricting the older form of Mass.
If this is true, it is a fantastic thing, and another sign that in Benedict’s Vatican, it is not exactly business as usual. Joseph Ratzinger was never the sort of man to leave work to someone else. So, it would not surprise me in the least that he might tell his secretary to get someone on the phone and then reason with him.
Benedict thinks he can get Muslims to reason with him, so he might be able to expect the same from French bishops, ne c’est pas?
And whom do you suppose would prevail in a reasoned discussion about the older form of Mass and the state of the Church?
It is clear that the Holy Father cannot call every bishop in the world. Then again, he doesn’t have to, does he. All he needs to do is call a very few key players. Word would get around very fast and most everyone would start falling into line. This is simply good leadership.
In times past… well… why limit ourselves to the past… we might imagine a scenario in which the Holy Father, after grave deliberation and many attempts at persuasion would reach out and remove a single "red hat" from a sitting diocesan archbishop. When called to the Apostolic Palace by the Vicar of Christ, "His Eminence" is ushered into with solemn regard. At the end of the meeting "His Excellency" is ushered out with solemn regard. He then returns to his work back home with many fewer distractions! Points of resistance might start to melt away.
Okay, that is a super dramatic scenario, but something like it it did historically occur. Pius XI accepted back the red hat when Louis Billot, SJ, "resigned" over a disagreement about Action Française. Pope Benedict, however, has a far gentler style.
I can very much imagine His Holiness making calls to those who were the most vehemently opposed to the derestriction. He would make the call to listen to the other point of view (as he has always done). Otherwise, he might just be making the calls if only to fill them in on the fact that it was going to happen soon and that he wanted their cooperation.
Some ecclesiastical Bob Newhart could have a field day with this.
"Your Excellency, good morning. Pope Benedict here. I hope you have a few minutes free. I would like to talk to you about the ‘Tridentine Mass’.
"Benedict… Pope Benedict. In Rome.
"No, this isn’t …. No. Your Excell… No, this isn’t Stinky. It really is Benedict… Joseph Ratz… Yes. That’s okay.
"Right. According to Fr. Z’s blog, Your Excellency has been rather strong in voicing opposition to the derestriction of the pre-Conciliar Missale.
"Yes, that’s right. I read… yes, I read him too. But that’s really not why called.
"No…. No…. Triden…. Yes…. that’s right.
"Please, Your Excellency… Jacques … pull yourself together. Men should be able to talk through their differences about things, see new viewpoints.