February 27, 2013
By Father William Muench
Everyone continues writing and talking about Pope Benedict XVI and his upcoming retirement, so I thought I would take a moment and join in. Like everyone else I was surprised at his announcement. However, my immediate response was “sensible.”
I have no idea what influenced his decision. I do know he remembers the last years of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate and I’m certain that Pope Benedict realized there is a better way. I certainly want to join those who are offering gratitude to Pope Benedict for his service to our Church.
I have noticed that some have used this situation to criticize the Catholic Church – some rather rude comments and cartoons. At the same time, many more have spoken of his talks and writings and his efforts to deal with the problems facing the Church.
When Pope Benedict was first elected, I was a bit concerned. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which looks for orthodoxy in the writings and teachings of Church leaders and theologians, he was very aggressive. At least that was my impression. He certainly challenged those who were writing new investigations.
However, as pope, he was very different, reaching out to Catholics of the world. Often, his writings as pope brought out the beauty of our faith to the world. He wrote about the love that Catholics should have and live as witnesses to the Lord. His stuff was good.
Soon, a new conclave will begin to elect a new pontiff. I remember well the conclave that elected Pope Benedict. It was the first conclave since 1978 – Pope John Paul II had a long pontificate of 27 years. I do remember how the television was allowed to follow the cardinals as they processed into the Sistine Chapel.
Rather unique nowadays as an election goes, a papal conclave has traditions that date back to the earliest days of the Church. No media following each step of the voting – analyzing each vote – trying to proclaim the winner after – say 2% of the vote. All is in secret!
So it is time to pray that the Holy Spirit will touch those cardinals that they will make a wise and good choice of our Catholic Church. I suspect – as usual – that the choice will be a surprise. When I was a child the Pope was Pope Pius XII who was Pope until I entered the seminary. Then during my third year in major seminary, Pope John XXIII was elected. That was certainly a surprise- yet, he had such a profound influence on our Church by calling the Second Vatican Council. Then after Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul l was elected and that was a surprise. And then he died in only one month – that was a surprise. Then Pope John Paul ll was elected – a Polish Pope – that was a surprise.
So – another conclave will begin soon – and there will certainly be another surprise to our Catholic Church.
I pray to Blessed John XXIII that, if there is to be a surprise, that it will be the right one for our Church and for us all.