Pope Benedict XVI Steps Down.
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D.
Vice President for University
Mission and Ministry, the University of Scranton
(Front Page Story in the University of Scranton's paper, the Aquinas, Feb 15 2013)
This week we saw something that hasn’t
happened in 719 years. A Pope resigned. This is a wise and humble choice on the part of
Benedict XVI. He has led the church
since 2005, taking over from the charismatic and beloved John Paul II. Admittedly more shy and less media savvy and charismatic
than his predecessor, Benedict has charmed many he visited, e.g. his USA trip in
Celestine V in 1294 A.D. was the last
Pope to voluntarily resign as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. (Gregory XII was forced to resign in 1415,
and so ended a painful schism, in the Western church where two Popes were
claiming the Papacy).
Benedict’s eight years as head of the
world’s more than one billion Catholics have not been easy. He had to deal with the never ending
revelations of priests’ sex scandals and Bishops mishandling of these
matters. Benedict XVI has been less the conservative
enforcer some predicted and has certainly not made the conservative –liberal logjam
any worse than it was when he took office.
Still, relations with religious women, and especially two well respected
female theologians, Margaret Farley and Elizabeth Johnson, did not please the
Catholic left. But the Catholic right
has not been pleased with what some see as his unwillingness to take a hard
line and “crack down” on dissenters.
This Pope is a brilliant theologian and
an astute reader of the signs of the times.
He realizes that women and men of faith gain more by the patient and
prayerful work of persuasion than the bludgeon of deafening dogma. In the long run, dictators never win true
allegiance of hearts and minds.
Especially in his writings (hundreds of
articles, multiple books, Encyclicals and three recent popular books on the
life of Jesus), Benedict has been a voice of faith grounded in solid biblical
scholarship. Jim Martin, S.J., notes,
“in [his] books, the pope brought to bear decades of scholarship and prayer to
the most important question that a Christian can ask: Who is Jesus? This is the pope’s primary job--to introduce
people to Jesus--and Pope Benedict did that exceedingly well.” http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/popes-legacy
Benedict’s voice calls for faith in an
age where faith is fragile. The erosion
of faith in European and First world countries threatens the life of the church. Yet hope rises where the church is
blossoming, in places like Africa, Asia and Latin America. China has seen Christianity grow
exponentially in recent decades.
In his Introduction to Christianity, Benedict writes, “one could very well
describe Christianity as a philosophy of freedom” and “The Christian message is
basically nothing else than the transmission of the testimony that love has
managed to break through death here and thus has transformed fundamentally the
situation of us all.” (1968, p. 158; p. 307)
Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen argues
that Benedict’s “encyclical Caritas in Veritate, with its affirmation
of structural reform as ‘political charity’ and his call for a global authority
to regulate the financial sector, may be the most radical since John XXIII's Pacem
in terris 50 years ago.” http://americamagazine.org/content/all-things/benedicts-legacy
of Nazareth, Benedict movingly reveals his view of God who exists in loving
relationship. “We see that to be God’s
child is not a matter of dependency, but rather of standing in the relation of
love that sustains man’s existence and gives it meaning and grandeur. One last question: Is God also Mother? The Bible does compare God’s love with the
love of a mother. … The mystery of God’s maternal love is
expressed with particular power in the Hebrew word rahamim, … ‘womb,’ later used to mean divine compassion, … God’s
mercy. The womb is the most concrete
expression for the interrelatedness of two lives and of loving concern…” (2007,
Joseph Ratzinger was born in 1927 and
ordained a priest in 1951. He has been serving
the church in many capacities for over six decades. He merits some time to relax, read and
pray. Maybe he’ll even have some more
time to write.
College students know how to use
twitter. “Tweet” the Pope at his twitter
handle “@pontifex” and say, “Thanks.”
Labels: catholic church, Lent, Pope, Pope Benedict, rick malloy