Thursday, April 21, 2005

Benedict XVI

His Holiness, Benedict XVI, has been crowned. The catholic Church has a new Roman Catholic pope. I encourage you all to pray for him -- together with all the popes, patriarchs, bishops, metropolitans, superintendents, presidents, and others with leadership responsibility and authority in the Church.

I have been reading sporadically in the works of the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger for a few years, and I never fail to love the experience. He is a profoundly intelligent man who exudes humility before God and in the service of God's Church. He writes beautifully (or at least, he translates really well).

I also know of his reputation as the "Rottweiler" of the Vatican. (Why not Dobermann Pinscher? Because of the alliteration of Rottweiler and Ratzinger?) And I don't know what to make of that. He was, frankly, a liberal during the Second Vatican Council, and he has now spoken of his desire further to implement the reforms of the Council. But one reads his criticism of some of the directions the Vatican II reforms have taken, and one may legitimately wonder where he would direct the Church. (Well, we may not have to wonder for long.)

I think his expressed attitude toward intra-Christian dialog and reconciliation has been problematic. Despite his commitment to Church union, one gets the impression that it must be on the Vatican's terms -- and that's not really dialog, is it? But any non-Catholic who has ever met him speaks of his warmth, generosity, openness, and interest in what they have to say.

Drat! We must contend with another complex person bearing the title "Pope."

Admission: This the sixth pope in my lifetime. (I go back to Pius XII.) John XXIII (of most blessed memory) is my romantic favorite. Paul VI (of blessed memory) is way underrated.

I was studying liturgy and patristics as St. John University, Collegeville, with Godfrey Diekmann and Gabrielle Winkler (when you've studied with the best, it's OK to drop names!) when Paul VI died. I was among that Benedictine community for that mourning, for the joy at the crowing of John Paul I, the death of John Paul I, and the crowing of John Paul II (of great surprise). So all the talk of my friends and acquaintances who have "only know John Paul II as pope" makes me feel very old.

I have never before known the man crowned. But because I have followed Ratzinger's writings, I know his picture well,and it's discombobulating to see "Cardinal Ratzinger" presiding or preaching as Benedict XVI. It doesn't seem quite in sync.

God's blessing on him and may God bless his Church through the manifold talents and faith of his servant Benedict.

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