Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Benedict the Magnificent - Pope of Christian Unity

After the charismatic Pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, I am sure that many people find Pope Benedict to be boring or even somewhat mediocre. However I wish to argue the opposite. I am convinced that Pope Benedict will go down in history as one of the best Popes in history. One day he will be Benedict the Magnificent, God willing.
A lot of what Pope Benedict has done and is doing for the Church may not be so evident yet, but in years to come we will see the results of his ministry. Not only has he brought about the "New Liturgical Movement" through his personal example, but also significantly through his Motu Proprio which officially states that the liturgy prior to Pope Paul VI has never been abrogated. This then in turn has helped refocus The Second Vatican Council in terms of Tradition and a "hermeneutic of continuity" as opposed to the popular and often heretical notion of the "Spirit of Vatican II".
Pope Benedict styled himself in his inauguration homily as a "humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord", and that is exactly what he is - HUMBLE. His personality is very quiet, timid almost and academic. Yet when you read his homilies and writings you get a sense of an amazing intellect which bursts forth with simple faith and theological clarity. He will go down in history for his CATECHESIS which is all too often neglected or politicised at the moment.
I remember reading once that Father Zuhlsdorf called Pope Benedict the "Pope of Christian Unity" due to his efforts in promoting Christian Unity - specifically in regards to bringing the Anglicans back and the discussions with the SSPX. It could also be mentioned his easing the tensions in China between the official and underground Churches there as well. Currently all of this may not seem so significant at the moment, however in years to come I believe we will see great fruits from all of these initiatives. As the Pope himself expressed in his Letter to the Bishops regarding the lifting of the excommunications to the Bishops of the SSPX:
I believe that I set forth clearly the priorities of my pontificate in the addresses which I gave at its beginning. Everything that I said then continues unchanged as my plan of action. The first priority for the Successor of Peter was laid down by the Lord in the Upper Room in the clearest of terms: "You… strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22:32). Peter himself formulated this priority anew in his first Letter: "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses "to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.
Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time. A logical consequence of this is that we must have at heart the unity of all believers. Their disunity, their disagreement among themselves, calls into question the credibility of their talk of God. Hence the effort to promote a common witness by Christians to their faith – ecumenism – is part of the supreme priority. Added to this is the need for all those who believe in God to join in seeking peace, to attempt to draw closer to one another, and to journey together, even with their differing images of God, towards the source of Light – this is interreligious dialogue. Whoever proclaims that God is Love "to the end" has to bear witness to love: in loving devotion to the suffering, in the rejection of hatred and enmity – this is the social dimension of the Christian faith, of which I spoke in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.
As we can see from this that the Pope links Christian unity to evangelisation and witness to the truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ. However it must be noted that in order to do this that there must be clarity of doctrine, this is where his Catechesis comes into play. Bl John Paul II is famous for his "Theology of the Body", however hardly anyone has drawn attention to Pope Benedict's Wednesday Catechesis which has been a systematic exposition of the Church's faith through history - starting with the Apostles, Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church, Medieval Mystics and so forth. He is showing that our understanding of the Faith must be linked back through Tradition, with the Communion of Saints. If we are not united with them in a common faith, then we are not in the Church. This is one of the biggest dangers of the Church in the present time - divorcing itself from history, from its origins and self creating itself in its own "image and likeness" in the modern day context, so that no longer is it the "Ekklesia" the community of believers set apart and called by God to be the "salt of the earth", but instead it becomes a modern say corporation with no soul.
So I invite all of you to pray for our timid and humble Pope, because he needs our prayers. Pray that he may be faithful in his ministry as the succesor of St Peter, pray that he may be the Rock that the Church needs inspite of all the internal politics of Bishops and Priests who sometimes publicly oppose, attack and ridicule him. As he himself recently said in one of his Wednesday audience:
From the first moment of my election as Successor of Saint Peter, also I have always felt supported by your prayer, by the prayer of the Church, above all in the most difficult moments. I thank you heartily. With constant and confident prayer, the Lord delivers us from the chains, leads us through any night of imprisonment that may torture our heart, grants us the serenity of heart to face the hardships of life, even rejection, opposition, persecution. The episode of Peter shows us the power of prayer. And the Apostle, even if in chains, feels calm, sure that he is never alone: the community is praying for him, the Lord is near; he also knows that "the power of Christ is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12, 9). Constant and unanimous prayer is a precious instrument also to overcome the trials that may appear in the path of life, because it means being deeply united to God, which allows us to be also deeply united to others.

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