Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Thank God for Pope Benedict

Yesterday's news about the Pope resigning has astounded the seminary, and by the look of things, the world.

Once again, we have seen that Pope Benedict is a man of integrity, who cannot be predicted and labeled. Some say he is "theologically conservative", but his works are full of imagination and life, and he sees everything in relation to personal friendship with the Lord. Some say he is authoritarian, yet he has been loathe to lead by force, excercising his papal ministry rather through pointing us gently in the direction of Heaven. Some say he is too shy to be a charismatic leader, yet when he came to England, his obvious warmth and delight was infectious, and people of diverse creeds responded to him in kind.

I am sure many people were thinking the Pope had nothing left to say, and a predictable end could be followed by a predictable obituary. Now once again the Pope has shown his courage and independence of mind, doing something that has not been done by a pope in 600 years. But he has not done it ostentatiously or for show - rather, he is showing as he did when he was first elected that he is merely a humble worker in the Lord's vineyard, and he is pointed us away from himself, to the Lord who gives his gifts to the Church. Like John the Baptist, he is effectively saying, "I must grow less, and he must grow greater".

Perhaps people might be confused that he has done this immediately after the papacy of Blessed John Paul II, who made a point of leading until death. Has Pope Benedict's decision undone the significance of that? I don't think so. The two decisions are complementary rather than contradictory. Each has something to say in its own context. John Paul II's suffering and death united him to the Passion and the Cross, themes that marked his public and private (penitential) life as pope. He showed that the Pope is not just a celebrity or a politician. Pope Benedict, by following the dictates of his own conscience, has emphasised the eminently pastoral nature of the papacy. What matters ultimately is not the Church saving face, but the Church saving souls. In that respect, I think his action has a noble stength and poignant beauty.

May he find, in his prayerful retirement, the consolation of the face of Christ for which he has always sought. May the Lord be praised for all he has given to us through Pope Benedict. And may the Lord raise up a worthy successor to him, who will lead with the mind and the heart of the Church.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

Thank you for this lovely post.