Cardinal Rigali returns to Knoxville

Cardinal Rigali returns to Knoxville after conclave to elect pope

Posted:
Cardinal Rigali flew back into Knoxville around 6:00 Saturday night after almost a month in Rome. Cardinal Rigali flew back into Knoxville around 6:00 Saturday night after almost a month in Rome.
The cardinal showed photographs in an album archiving his historic trip. The cardinal showed photographs in an album archiving his historic trip.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Cardinal Justin Rigali returned to East Tennessee Saturday to deliver a blessing from Pope Francis.

Cardinal Rigali arrived about 6 p.m. after almost a month in Rome.

Millions followed the coverage of the Papal Conclave and the newly-elected pope. Rigali got a rare perspective as one of the few who were truly apart of the entire process.

Photographs from inside the Sistine Chapel give a glimpse of what the conclave was like.

"When the Pope received 77 votes there was an applause and I certainly joined in," Cardinal Rigali said. "There was applause, however, they had to continue because they had to calculate all of the votes."

Cardinal Rigali could have garnered some votes to be the next pope, so we asked what he thought about that possibility.

"I wasn't betting on it," he said with a laugh. "I wasn't betting on it."

The cardinal went on to say there is a lesser known fact about the voting, one that means he and the cardinals weren't the only ones under consideration.

"People know only the cardinals voted, but others can be voted for," he stressed. "There is no absolution saying only a cardinal can be pope"

The cardinal talked for nearly an hour about the history-making weeks. One of the most memorable stories he told was about with a written blessing he brought back from Pope Francis. It was signed by the pope less than 48 hours after the election.

This is said to be a first for the Knoxville Diocese.

"Not the next morning, but the morning after (the election) the 15th of March," Rigali said, "I was explaining to the pope that Bishop Stika had asked for this blessing and he said very willingly, 'I send my blessing,' but he said it would be nice to put it in writing."

Cardinal Rigali had the blessing written up by lunchtime. Pope Francis signed it with a simple signature, much like the man himself.

"He will sign his name in Latin usually, but I believe he will sign it in whatever language he is writing in."

That blessing and the books used by Cardinal Rigali during the conclave will be on display at the Knoxville Diocese Chancery sometime later this week.

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