Thursday, April 21, 2005

Why Benedict? and I Don't Mean Eggs

After a Theology class I decided to browse blogs, and, while I was browsing, I came across one that discusses the appointment of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope. The Gun-Toting Liberal lists snippets from other blogs concerning the Pope's appointment and accompanying comments of his own. In my class, I had the pleasure of speaking with someone who worked for Pope Benedict XVI during the early '90's, and, during our discussion, we speculated as to why he had taken the name Benedict--as opposed to, say, John Paul III.

But first let me dispel some incredible misinformation about the Pope's personal history and character. I got a lot of my information from Jewish publications. Pope Benedict XVI was the son of an anti-Nazi police officer. He deserted the German military. The Pope's membership in Hitler Youth was compulsory and short-lived. He actively saught not having to be part of the HY and got a dispensation from involvment based on his pursuit of religious studies. He personally attempted to strengthen the bond between Jews and Catholics/christians alongside Pope John Paul II by helping to prepare Memory and Reconcilation, and he has stated that it saddens him when any person uses portions of the Bible to justify anti-semitism.

The current Pope is conservative. That's not suprising seeing as he was Pope John Paul II's closest confidant, or, as Anne of Green Gables would say, they were kindred spirits, and Pope John Paul was conservative. They worked as a team, and therefore shared at least some similar prayers for the church. For instance, they both wanted to heal the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Anyway, back to why he might have taken the name Benedict. Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI is quite the scholar. Until present, Pope Benedict XIV had been acknowledged as the greatest scholar among the popes. Our current Pope is fluent in ten languages and proficient in even more. When asked, years ago, whether he wanted to be Pope, he said no because he didn't want to do administrative work anymore. He craved time to write the "many books" he had in his head. His idea of fun was to gather his current and previous doctoral students, take a trip to a cabin in the mountains, and stay there discussing subject-matter like salvation or grace around food and a fire.

Pope Benedict XIV was conservative when it came to liturgical matters. Given that the emphasis of Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Pope John Paul's funeral Mass was the importance of the Eucharist (or liturgy), he's quite conservative about liturgical matters. Furthermore, Bendict XIV exerted tremendous efforts to strengthen relations with the Eastern Church, and he was succcesful with a number of Eastern Churches. Also, Pope Bendict XV worked to bridge the enormous gap between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Given that the current Pope has spent a lot of time attempting to strengthen/repair the Catholic Church's relationship with Jews and the Eastern Orthodox (especially the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church), that's another common bond the Benedicts appear to share.

As concerns Pope Benedict XV, he was Pope during World War I. He was a consummate diplomate and advocated for peace. He indicated that he was concerned with "the death of Europe" due to, one would assume, it's disrespect for life as evidenced by the War. Now, the parallels between that Pope and the current one could be read in a couple of different ways: first, the Vatican has stated that it doesn't agree with the war in Iraq because it doesn't believe that the criteria for a Just War have been met and second, the Vatican has acknowledged that the spirtual life of the church has been dying in Europe--largely because a pervasive culture of death there. In fact, as far as a I know, the current Pope has already made it his mission to revive the spirtual life of Europeans. Thus, I would say that the second parallel is pretty definite, and the first parallel may or may not be there. Time will tell.

It's unfair to say that he wont have time to do great things, or that he is somehow an interim Pope. Vatican II was convened by Pope John XXII, who was only Pope for 5 years. His legacy speaks for itself. There is no limit to what Pope Benedict XVI may acheive.

Pray for us!