"Girl, it was so thrilling I can hardly tell you about it," Minneapolis' Bessie Green said of going to the Vatican to see her daughter play a concert attended by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Green's daughter is Fox News Channel's chief religion correspondent and concert pianist Lauren Green, who is based in NYC. Earlier this month, Green performed in a small private Vatican concert celebrating the 90th birthday of the former pope's older brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger.
The connections that took them to Rome were made in 2012, when Green attended the International Sacred Music Festival. At a Sistine Chapel reception Green found herself in conversation with Michael Hesemann, co-author of "My Brother the Pope." "Oh, my gosh, I just read that book," Green said she told Hesemann. He "gave me a hard copy, and then I gave him one of my CDs," laughed Green.
There began what Green described an "emailship." Hesemann invited Green to Regensburg, Germany, for the older Ratzinger's 89th birthday Jan. 15, 2013. "I said, 'You know what, I'm going and taking my mother. I went to [Ratzinger's] house, played a little piano for him. Monsignor Ratzinger doesn't speak English and my mom doesn't speak German." Still, she said, "he really liked my mom, and they were just sitting there chatting."
Hesemann mentioned that he wanted to have a 90th birthday concert for Ratzinger and asked Green if she wanted to be part of it. "I said, 'I'd love to.' At that point there was no consideration the pope would be there. He's the pope. A few weeks later the shock is that Pope Benedict resigned. I thought he would be in the background, wouldn't be too much in the public. It never occurred to me they would still do this concert."
But in November, Hesemann informed Green that Ratzinger's birthday concert was on and had been moved to the Vatican. "He asked would I like to be a part of it? Yaa!" she said. "It was really spectacular."
On Tuesday Mrs. Green, a nonagenarian herself, paused to make sure I had the facts: "Now, this was Pope Benedict I was hanging with.
"It was quite thrilling. They carry [you] in these private cars because you couldn't walk on the grounds. There were 45-50 people invited," she said. "All this big entourage with the pope's brother, who is in a wheelchair, and Pope Benedict followed him in. He had on his white outfit, of course, and they had the chairs set up for them and that big chair the pope always sits in, you know? They had a greeter and Michael, the author who brought this together.
"Lauren played third on the program. I can't even remember what she played [Bach, Liszt and Brahms.] I hate to say it, but I think Lauren just knocked them out with that piano.
"When it was over, I have to tell you this, C.J.: Pope Emeritus got up, he rose slowly because he's old, and just held out his arms and walked over to Lauren and shook both her hands and said something to her. You know he's a pianist. Pope Benedict is very musical. This a very musical family.
"I did not know you're not supposed to touch the pope. But I greeted him, bowed, shook his hand and he took both my hands. And he said something to me complimentary, for being an old lady like I am — You are so lively or something. … I just reached up and started putting my arms around his shoulders and [said], 'You are so sweet.' I was just thrilled to death!"
"After we got back to the hotel, Lauren said Mom, I wanted you here so much. … It just touched her. She realizes you just never know what you can do."
It's a girl!
Sarita and Kul Kalra, owners of Bloomington's Tandoor Restaurant, are finally grandparents.
Their eldest son, Adit, and his wife, Paveena Kalra, welcomed baby Aarya, 5 pounds, 9 ounces and 19 inches long, on Monday.
"She is soo adorable!" said Adit. Congrats.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9's "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count. Attachments are not opened.