Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate his fifth anniversary as pope April 19.
It’s clear by now that he won’t get the same treatment on that day that he did for his other anniversaries. For the world’s media, this one will be another opportunity to try to taint his reputation by pinning on him the lion’s share of the blame for the developing abuse scandal.
Many Catholics know that the evidence shows Pope Benedict has probably done more than any other bishop to reach out to victims and root out what he has called “filth” from the Church. Those Catholics are frustrated. Other Catholics, who get their news about the Church from the secular media, are confused or even scandalized.
The question, of course, is why we — people of faith — should let the secular media define for us what a pope is and what our attitude towards him should be. Why should a non-believing journalist on the religion beat be more credible than a cardinal or a pope, or St. Catherine of Siena, who called the pope the ‘sweet Christ on Earth’?
Right now, Catholics are the ones who most need to be reminded what their pope is.
On the rock of Peter our Church is built. To him and his successors — Christ’s vicars — have been entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of heaven. The pope is the visible foundation of the Church. Christ prayed for him that his faith might not fail, that he might strengthen his brethren.
Voices in the media tell us that Pope Benedict is presiding over an unprecedented disaster. The truth is that he’s presiding over the greatest success story of all time: The grace of the sacraments and the power of the Resurrection are reaching a billion Catholics worldwide under his pastoral care.
Right now, Catholics are the ones who most need to be reminded how much this pope has done for them. His ministry and his teaching have opened the eyes and hearts of more than 10 million pilgrims at events in Rome, and he has taken it to five continents on pastoral visits. We think that’s a good start.
The big story here is how much God has worked through him in his first five years as Pope. That’s why we began to commission short essays to honor him for his anniversary just a few weeks ago. Those essays are now taking on a meaning and depth we couldn’t have imagined. We’re fortunate to have this man leading us, and these essays tell why.
We stand by that story. And we stand by our Holy Father. So we hope you enjoy reading these tributes as much as we did.
— The Editors
BY ARCHBISHOP CELESTINO MIGLIORE
Archbishop Celestino Migliore has been the apostolic nuncio and the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations since 2002.
At the height of the storm that is sweeping the Barque of Peter with the sordid and reprehensible waves of scandal wrought by some members of the Church, one reporter rightly has compared Pope Benedict XVI to the evangelical figure of Simon of Cyrene forced to carry the cross on the Via Crucis of the Catholic community for the good of the Church.
The comparison is confirmed when we consider the circumstances at the time of his election to the papacy five years ago: his age, his plans to retire to study and reflect, his not being exactly in the peak of health.
Pope Benedict, like Simon of Cyrene, carries the cross without attracting attention to himself, but holding up to the world continually the figure of Christ. Not only because as pope he wrote a book on Jesus and is preparing a second, but also because each of his pronouncements — be it a discourse, message, catechesis or homily — orient the gaze of man on God and speak of God’s view of humanity.
This is the style of governance of Pope Benedict XVI. He explained it himself recently during the Wednesday general audience of March 10 speaking of St. Bonaventure, observing in an almost autobiographical way: “We see that for St. Bonaventure governance was not merely doing something; above all, it was thinking and praying. At the basis of his way of governing we always find prayer and thought. All of his decisions were the result of reflection, of thought illuminated by prayer. His work as minister general was always accompanied by intimate contact with Christ. For this reason, he composed a series of theological and mystical writings that express the core of his governance and manifest his intention to guide the order interiorly, that is, not only through commands and structures, but by guiding and illuminating souls, directing them to Christ.”
To a world fragmented culturally, politically and socially, desperately in search of coexistence on the basis of the old principle “as if God did not exist,” he urges both believers and nonbelievers to live and act “as if God does exist.”
“It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights,” he stated while visiting the United Nations in 2008. “Those rights are grounded and shaped by the transcendent nature of the person, which permits men and women to pursue their journey of faith and their search for God in this world. Recognition of this dimension must be strengthened if we are to sustain humanity’s hope for a better world and if we are to create the conditions for peace, development, cooperation and guarantee of rights for future generations.”
The synergy between faith and reason underlies Pope Benedict’s thought and action. This fundamental conviction allowed him to relaunch dialogue and cooperation with cultures and religions on challenging and productive bases.
Not long ago, The New York Times published a lucid and perspicacious analysis of Pope Benedict XVI’s ecclesial and international activity, illustrating the long-term beneficial effects produced by three statements of his, amply decried by worshippers of political correctness: His discourse at the University of Regensburg, the repeal of the excommunication of the Lefebvrists, and his statement on the limits of the use of condoms in the struggle against AIDS.
The columnist, John Berwick, noted how Pope Benedict XVI has been moving in the name of the “folly” already praised by Erasmus of Rotterdam. His high and, today more than ever, necessary moral stature derives from working in the line of that human “folly” of faith, of which the Gospels are filled, for the purpose of telling the world the things that nobody but Christ says.