August 6, 1978

Thirty-five years ago tomorrow, I was standing at a train station in Oslo, Norway along with three of my colleagues from the North American College. We were on a European month-long holiday, touring Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Our intention was to catch a train departing for Bergen, Norway to see the fiords. It was a bright, sunny summer day in the late afternoon, very pleasant in terms of temperature. We were milling around, waiting, and talking about all the things we were about to do when we arrived.

I happened to glance at a newpaper kiosk in the vicinity. The front page was filled with a photo of Pope Paul VI. I didn’t know Norwegian at all, but I could make out  from the headlines a word that was very similar to the German word for “dead.” I told the guys I thought something was up with the pope, and I found a passerby who spoke both English and Norwegian. He confirmed that the pope had died.

This led to a bit of a conflict among us traveling together. One of us (not me) wanted to go on to Bergen, and return to Rome in a week or so. The rest of us said we wanted to climb on the train bound for Rome later that day. The majority ruled and on the train we were for over 36 straight hours, much of which was laying in the aisles and standing because all the seats and cabins had been occupied, but Rome we came.  Little did we know what the following 2 1/2 months would hold for us all with the funerals of two popes and watching the elections of two. A period of grace for us and the whole Church.

Yes, August 6 is the 35th anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI, the last pope to be coronated with the tiara. It was the first day of the sede vacante 1978, to be followed all to shortly by the sede vacante settembre in only about six weeks. It was the beginning of the year of three popes, all of whom I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears.

We entrust the soul of Papa Montini to the mercy of God. May God bless him and welcome him into his presence with all the angels and saints.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota.
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