Cardinal Mortati knew there were no words in any language that could have added to the mystery of this moment. The silence of the vision over St. Peter’s Square sang louder than any chorus of angels.
As he stared up at Camerlegno Ventresca, Mortati felt the paralyzing collision of his heart and mind. The vision seemed real, tangible. And yet . . . how could it be? Everyone had seen the camerlegno get in the helicopter. They had all witnessed the ball of light in the sky. And now, somehow, the camerlegno stood high above them on the rooftop terrace. Transported by angels? Reincarnated by the hand of God?
This is impossible . . .
Mortati’s heart wanted nothing more than to believe, but his mind cried out for reason. And yet all around him, the cardinals stared up, obviously seeing what he was seeing, paralyzed with wonder.
It was the camerlegno. There was no doubt. But he looked different somehow. Divine. As if he had been purified. A spirit? A man? His white flesh shone in the spotlights with an incorporeal weightlessness.
In the square there was crying, cheering, spontaneous applause. A group of nuns fell to their knees and wailed saetas. A pulsing grew from in the crowd. Suddenly, the entire square was chanting the camerlegno’s name. The cardinals, some with tears rolling down their faces, joined in. Mortati looked around him and tried to comprehend. Is this really happening?
Camerlegno Carlo Ventresca stood on the rooftop terrace of St. Peter’s Basilica and looked down over the multitudes of people staring up at him. Was he awake or dreaming? He felt transformed, otherworldly. He wondered if it was his body or just his spirit that had floated down from heaven toward the soft, darkened expanse of the Vatican City Gardens . . . alighting like a silent angel on the deserted lawns, his black parachute shrouded from the madness by the towering shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica. He wondered if it was his body or his spirit that had possessed the strength to climb the ancient Stairway of Medallions to the rooftop terrace where he now stood.
He felt as light as a ghost.
Although the people below were chanting his name, he knew it was not him they were cheering. They were cheering from impulsive joy, the same kind of joy he felt every day of his life as he pondered the Almighty. They were experiencing what each of them had always longed for . . . an assurance of the beyond . . . a substantiation of the power of the Creator.
Camerlegno Ventresca had prayed all his life for this moment, and still, even he could not fathom that God had found a way to make it manifest. He wanted to cry out to them. Your God is a living God! Behold the miracles all around you!
He stood there a while, numb and yet feeling more than he had ever felt. When, at last, the spirit moved him, he bowed his head and stepped back from the edge.
Alone now, he knelt on the roof, and prayed.