Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rest Well Pope-Emeritus: I'm saddened, but not feeling abandoned

With the See of Rome vacant, you will see the above crest, or versions of it, in many places from the Vatican website and the @Pontifex Twitter Feed, which now reads "Sede Vacante" (and is cleared of all tweets made by Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI), to formal communications like this one from Vatican Radio. The papal apartment has been sealed and the Swiss Guards replaced by the Vatican Gendaremerie (the former are there only to protect the pope himself and since he has vacated, they stand down).

I started my day by watching Benedict XVI's meeting with the Cardinals before heading off to work.  I was fortunate to watch the entire helicopter trip live on my iPhone because it happened during my lunch hour! I won't tell you that I shed a few tears watching him fly over the Roman Colosseum where early Christians were martyred in powerful civilizations now read about only in history books.

I am deeply saddened today for one reason only: He has gone "monastic" in a sense, hidden from the world.  My sadness comes not from feelings bruised by any sense of abandonment, but from the fact that we just won't be seeing or hearing from him any more.

At the same time, I am happy - happy that this great man, who has given so much Glory to God by every "yes" when He has called him, has said "yes" one last time when he felt God wanted him in his engine room. There, like the silence and hiddenness of fuel that powers an engine, he will supply power to the Church through his prayer and sacrifices.

Pope John Paul II showed us how age humbly through redemptive suffering, and how to die with dignity; BenedictXVI shows us that we can age humbly, and die with dignity in other ways too.  There is no one way that every pope will go out just as there is no one way that any one of us will go out. Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI remains as close to Christ crucified as did his predecessor, but in a different way.

Abandonment is something I do not feel, yet I know others do.  As I mentioned elsewhere, by the grace of God, I have found peace with his decision to abdicate when I considered the possibility of others running the papacy in his name as he declined. Soon, the conspiracy theories would have started, with people wondering what was really coming from him, and what was coming from members of the hierarchy just trying to keep the work of the pope flowing.

I suspect Benedict XVI saw himself ending up as a boat anchor slowing the Barque of Peter at a time when it needs to run full ahead.  He may have been concerned that well-intentioned members of his staff and Curia would begin to shield him, fearing this or that news might be stressful on him. He short-circuited infighting and anxiety some in the holy office might have over making a decision on when to pull power if illness was so severe that he could not function over a long period of time.  Perhaps he had been consulted many times about this by others in those positions when Pope John Paul II just couldn't go any more. Modern medicine has enabled us to live longer, so it is a new challenge for the papacy.

I'm not concerned about how future popes might feel pressured to resign before their time.  I'll explain why in my next post.

There are many unresolved problems - problems that could not possibly be solved in what little time he felt he had left, with his strength diminishing fast. He's putting those things in the hands of someone who is stronger in terms of health and age - someone who can put many years into the kind of reforms he probably felt needed more time and effort than he could give  As he pointed out yesterday, it's not his Church or our Church, but Christ's Church. One pope's work becomes another's work, and so on.

Perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back for him was World Youth Day.  It was reported that the Pope was told not to travel any more.  Young people who have pinched and saved for several years to go to Brazil for World Youth Day this summer, would end up with a representative in his stead.  They are being given a gift by the Pope-emeritus: They will have an opportunity to bond with a new pontiff.

Papal visits around the world are a part of the New Evangelization.  Modern, affordable transportation and communication have made it much easier for people to gather in large numbers for a pope versus 60 or 70 years ago. It was said that the Pope-emeritus had even bigger numbers than his predecessor.  I don't think it's because they didn't love Pope John Paul II as much; it's because it's easier to get around and get the word out today than it was in past decades or centuries.

As I stated before, we find some nominal Catholics becoming faithful Catholics after a papal visit, and non-Catholics crossing the Tiber, while young people discover their vocations.  Many good priests and religious today point back to being stirred at a papal visit by the last two popes.  He knew this, and I think he feared a prolonged illness that would have put it all on hold, if not for months, then perhaps for many years.

We entered Lent with one pope, and we will exit Lent with another.  It's all very symbolic of the Resurrection and Easter, with a new beginning.  Through my sadness I smile with how he pegged every little detail, and I think we will discover more details about his timing in the years to come. Even the readings in the breviary and the psalms seem so fitting for the occasion.

Rest well, Your Holiness, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. Pray for us to have hope and faith in Divine Providence for God to give us the kind of leader we need to build the Body of Christ here on Earth.


Here is an archive with some recent events and there are some video feeds included.

If you want to see some screen shots from the Pope's departure, some are pretty dramatic.  Father Z captured some here:

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
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