Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pope Post No. 1: Running the papacy as a pope declines

Photo of Pope at last Angelus of his pontificate (Reuters)

There is so much out there, and so much more to come.  I'm beginning a series called the "Pope Post" that will try to capture, if not daily, then several times weekly, some of the most interesting material out there concerning Pope Benedict XVI's abdication of office, and the upcoming selection of a new pontiff.  I won't always provide commentary; sometimes I'll just pass along some interesting links.  If you are looking for stories and reports of a scandalous nature, you'll have to look elsewhere.  I've had enough of that and prefer to keep my head down, mainly in prayer, and checking in on some insightful reports and commentaries.

One thing I do want to pass along to you is the Holy Father's Angelus message from earlier today - the last of his pontificate.  He opened with a bang:

(Vatican Radio) “Dear brothers and sisters…The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this, it is so I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength”. "We will always be close in prayer!".

That's deep.  Read the entire Angelus message for February 24, 2013 at

See Rome Reports video brief at bottom of this post.

Wednesday, he will have his last General Audience, and Thursday is his last day.


I am aware that there are some who want to see Pope Benedict XVI re-elected.  There are others who feel strongly that he should not be stepping down.  I know it is painful.  As much as I wanted to see this  man, whom I believe will some day be named a doctor of the Church, to reign until my days are done, I am at peace with his decision.  I am at peace because I believe he has been discerning this whole scenario for some years, and at the least, for the past year.  I trust his discernment, even though in a decision like this, he is certainly not infallible.  I am also at peace because I trust in Divine Providence.

One thing that gave me comfort soon after I confirmed the news and got over the shock, was this thought:  Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI doesn't want anyone else running the papacy in his name as he declines.  This thought has been floating in the back of my mind since soon after the announcement.  Just yesterday, a friend sent me a very good article by Andrea Gagliarducci where he echoes a similar thought:

Benedict XVI has wanted to avoid going through a long «end of the pontificate» period, as in John Paul II’s last ten years. During that period, many appointments were not Wojtyla’s, speeches were not Wojtyla’s, and the choices were not Wojtyla’s. During those ten years, a hard core of clerks, monsignors, and nuncios rose within the Curia, who later made Pope Benedict’s  path more difficult.

I don't know if what he says is true or not, but I think it is possible.  Common sense should tell us things had to be delegated to keep things moving at the usual pace as the Holy Father slowed down.

I believe that each Pope has his own unique vocation.  God took Pope John Paul II down the path that was right for him at the time, and the Church was blessed with lessons on living as we age, and dying with dignity.  There are too many things pointing to God's will in this regard with Pope John Paul II, right down to the fact that should die on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday.  This says nothing of the interesting timing with the senseless murder of Terry Schiavo around the same time.  The Pope's path to death sparked many pro-life discussions concerning end-of-life care.

But Pope Benedict XVI's vocation as Pope is taking a different path - one that is unique to him.  God is not using him to teach the lesson already taught by Pope John Paul II.  He is using this Pope's decision to teach us other things. Some of these lessons will not be apparent until a later time.

Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI feared being shielded by well-intentioned members of the Curia who wouldn't want to upset him about this or that.  Or, perhaps he didn't want a power struggle to ensue between factions in the Curia with different ideas about how things should be done, and over appointments, and what-not. The Holy Office must keep running, even as a pope naturally must slow down.  The grace of office goes to the Pope, not necessarily to people running the papacy in his name.

If this line of thought is plausible, it explains to me Pope Benedict XVI's very confident and calm demeanor despite having made one whopper of decision that has shocked the world.  It comes from believing he is truly doing what is in the best interest of the Church.  I don't think his stepping down has one ounce of selfish desire to it.  I don't believe he is resigning so he can pursue mystical union with God which might be hindered by every day tasks.  I think what he is saying is that he can no longer continue with the work required of an active Pope, but there is still so much more he can do for the Church, which is to fuel the fire with prayer and sacrifice.

I don't know why he is stepping down other than what he has told us, at face value, that it is due to reasons of health and age.  I would feel selfish in wanting to keep him when he doesn't feel he can meet the challenges required of a pope given his health and age.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift you have given us in Pope Benedict XVI.  May his life of prayer and sacrifice bring many graces to the Church.

Rome Reports video brief on the Angelus.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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