(3 of 4)
Still, like any good campaigner, he was center stage at every turn--at John Paul's funeral; at the first of the novemdiales Masses, held on the nine days after the Pope's funeral; as chairman of the Cardinals' daily congregation meetings; at the preconclave Mass. Were they all required appearances? Apparently, the novemdiales Mass did not necessarily have to be celebrated by Ratzinger. He was also under no obligation to deliver such substantial homilies. "Ratzinger seems to have grabbed the ball and run with it for two weeks," remarked an experienced Vaticanologist. A Ratzinger supporter put it in more pious terms: "Some inner fire was lit, like God had chosen him."
And then, on the Monday of the conclave, he delivered a homily that effectively acknowledged his candidacy, making it plain that he would not compromise his ideals to gain votes. It was a gauntlet thrown down before would-be challengers and a rallying cry for supporters. "What was he doing issuing a whole program for the future of the church?" asked an aide to a liberal Cardinal. "That should have been a moment for the dean of Cardinals to reflect on the spiritual process they were about to enter, not lay out his visions." Ratzinger's supporters saw it otherwise. "It's not that he wanted the job. He didn't," said one. "But his brother Cardinals saw him leading an important Mass. Watching him, there was something that had changed, almost like he had already ascended to a new level."
If the liberals arrived in Rome not truly believing Ratzinger was a viable candidate, they did now. Cardinal Martini had tried to organize a countermovement, and as the electors entered the conclave on Monday afternoon, the consensus was that two camps would be pitted against each other: the conservatives around Ratzinger and a group behind Martini. But Martini, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease, was hoping only to blunt Ratzinger's momentum to give other less conservative Cardinals a chance to gather support.
The biblical scholar managed a good showing in the first round of balloting, but Ratzinger was already solidly ahead. The rest of the votes were spread among several Italians and, according to one voting Cardinal, several ballots were left blank. By evening, it was clear that no one was going to be able to step in for Martini.
Not even Ratzinger's younger conservative rivals could put up a fight. Tettamanzi, bested in eloquence on his home turf, reportedly managed only two votes. And the Italians never coalesced around another countryman. Indeed, while analysts at the time focused on the bloc-voting potential of the 20 eligible Italian Cardinals and how it might portend an Italian Pope, few noticed that the bloc had a fissure and that nine of those Cardinals were members of the Curia--well within Ratzinger's sphere of influence. A senior Vatican official notes, "What lifted him over the threshold were the Italians. If he got it in four ballots, it means the Italians were on board." An Italian member of the Curia, Camillo Cardinal Ruini, the vicar of Rome, is believed to have ridden herd on the pro-Ratzinger Cardinals as they gathered. One Cardinal elector said many of the 20-member Latin American bloc closely aligned with the German's traditionalist stance arrived intent on getting Ratzinger elected.