"Every cardinal does what he thinks before God is right," he said.
But every cardinal had some earthly guidance on what that right decision should be.
On the morning of the second day of the conclave, Ratzinger had breakfast with cardinals from Asia and Africa, according to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles. Egan, the archbishop of New York, recalled another occasion when Ratzinger spoke in four languages to keep everyone around the table in the conversation.
George, of Chicago, said that a few days before the conclave, he talked with the future pope about maintaining "the canonical structures we need to respond" to the sex abuse crisis, a reference to the church laws that allow U.S. bishops to remove priests who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with minors. "He understood the need to do that" and showed he "had a good grasp of the situation," George said.
Murphy-O'Connor said most of the informal discussions during the conclave took place in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse, where the cardinals were staying. "We didn't have meetings in rooms, we just sort of walked around on the ground floors," he said. "There wasn't much time."
Only one vote was taken on the first day of the conclave. No one got the required two-thirds majority, but the strong backing for Ratzinger was apparent. "It was a choice that was almost clear from the very beginning," George said.
"Everyone knew that of those who might be pope, that Cardinal Ratzinger was a very strong candidate," Murphy-O'Connor said. "And the fact that he came out early was interesting. . . . There was a vote on the first day, and then two the following morning, and the following evening there was the majority required. And that's how it happened."
After his election, the new pope invited all the cardinals to stay and dine with him, as John Paul had done in 1978. They ate Italian bean soup, chicken cordon bleu and ice cream, washing it down with spumante. Cardinal William Baum, the retired archbishop of Washington, was among those at the head table.
At John Paul's election night celebration, he sang Polish folk songs. This time, the assembly managed only a couple of songs in Latin, George said. "There were no folk songs or anything like that," he said. "It's a different style."