NEW YORK CITY — Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is calling on his archdiocese to pray in a particular way for Pope Benedict on Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.
“I have ... asked that tomorrow, Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, we remember Pope Benedict in a special way with special Masses and Eucharistic adoration,” Cardinal Dolan wrote today in his column for Catholic New York.
“In these days of novelty and uncertainty, when many may be anxious and nervous, we need more than ever to return to the Lord, as individuals and together as the Church.”
On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict announced his intention to resign the office of the papacy, which will be effective on Feb. 28. It marks the first time a pope has abdicated since Gregory XII in 1415.
Cardinal Dolan has also instituted a novena in the New York Archdiocese, lasting from Feb. 20 to 28, to pray in thanksgiving for Pope Benedict, for his health and for “guidance as we await his successor.”
The Chair of Peter is an important feast for the papacy, Cardinal Dolan explained, because it marks the authority and mission of the pope for the universal Church and reminds us of the history of the office, stretching back to Christ's appointment of St. Peter as “universal pastor.”
“We need Peter among us. Without the charism of Peter in the Church, we would be tossed about by every gust of wind, every false doctrine, every silly trend,” reflected Cardinal Dolan.
“Peter is the gift of Jesus to the Church, a teacher to hand on the deposit of the faith and to be a sign of unity.”
Cardinal Dolan reflected that, in the modern age in which the pope is “immediately present” to Catholics throughout the world, Pope Benedict's abdication left some feeling adrift or abandoned.
“To them I would like to address a few words,” he said. “Benedict himself reminded us this week that it is Christ Jesus who remains always the Supreme Pastor of the Church. Popes, bishops, parish priests — yes, even cardinals — all come and go; Jesus alone remains.”
“Peter is the rock to be sure, but it is the Lord Jesus who is the cornerstone and the sure foundation of the Church. The news of this past week should be a reminder of that.”
Marking the contrast between Pope Benedict's decision and the decision of John Paul II to remain in office until his death, Cardinal Dolan reminded us that “holiness is not uniformity.” Their differing decisions can both be admired and manifest the harmonious diversity which reflects the grandeur of God.
The Fruit of Prayer
New York's archbishop re-assured the faithful that Pope Benedict's decision was the fruit of prayer, of dialogue and friendship with Christ. The Pope realized that another must take up the task of strengthening the brethren.
Cardinal Dolan exhorted prayers for the future pope, saying that, “in these Lenten days, we need to pray and offer penance for the man who will be the new successor of Peter among us.”
He also sought prayers for himself, as he prepares to travel to Rome for the conclave.
“When I was created a cardinal, I knew in theory that one day a conclave would come. Now it is a reality, and I ask your prayers for me as your archbishop, that I might be an instrument of the Lord’s grace and providence in the days ahead.”
St. Peter's response to Christ when many followers deserted him — Lord, to whom shall we go? — must be at the forefront of the cardinal electors' minds, reflected the head of the New York Archdiocese.
Said Cardinal Dolan, “I ask you to pray for me that, in the midst of all the conflicting voices, I go to the Lord himself, ascending those steps in a way that will be pleasing to him on the day of my death and judgment.”