In preparation for Pope Benedict XVI’s fifth anniversary as successor to Peter, the Register commissioned a series of essays for publication on our website, NCRegister.com, in the days leading up to and following his anniversary date of April 19.
We hope these essays carry with them a reminder of the many high points of the Holy Father’s pontificate.
Voices in popular 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. 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 the essays several weeks ago. Those narratives 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.
Following are some excerpts from a handful of the contributions, which can be read in full at NCRegister.com under “Register Exclusives.”
— The Editors
“Since his election I have become much more familiar with his homilies of past and present and see him as a gentle and courageous ‘teaching’ Pope. It is said that multitudes crowded St. Peter’s Square to see Pope John Paul II, but even greater multitudes come to hear our great shepherd.
“His constant theme of unity in truth and charity resonates throughout these five years and from continent to continent. His presence in the United States for our bicentennial year, so special to the Archdiocese of Louisville — formerly the Diocese of Bardstown — continues to inspire our local Church. Even in the midst of the challenges within and beyond our Church, he is a beacon who humbly and eloquently points to our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
— Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky
“The influence that Pope Benedict XVI has had on my life as a priest and bishop is felt mainly through his writings. You can tell from his preaching and speaking that he is a natural-born teacher. He makes his points in a way that is clear and lucid. He has a firm grasp of the importance of one’s understanding of the faith as well as the challenges offered by our contemporary society that attempts to undermine that faith.
“The other point to make here is the fact that Pope Benedict gives priority in his ministry to his preaching and teaching. For bishops who can get caught up in the administration of their pastoral obligations, this is an important point to keep in mind.”
— Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota
“Despite being one of the world’s most erudite theologians as well as one of the most clear moral guides of our time, Pope Benedict begins his encyclical by reminding us that being a Christian is not about grasping lofty ideas, nor can it be reduced simply to making ethical choices.
“Christianity is about an encounter with Jesus Christ that transforms one’s life. This has been the overarching theme of the Pope’s catechesis for the first five years of his papacy.”
— Archbishop John Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas
“One must acknowledge the Pope’s historic efforts to further relations with the Jewish people through his practice to attend synagogues in many of the cities of his pilgrimages. He has clearly and decisively condemned the historic atrocities committed against the Jewish people at every opportunity.
“He has made positive advances with our Muslim brothers and sisters by frankly addressing concerns and by rallying the work of the good and dedicated Muslim leaders in the common cause of peace and reconciliation.”
— Gary Krupp, president of the Pave the Way Foundation
“In 2007 he declared a Year of St. Paul, in which he dedicated himself and the Church to intensive study of the great apostle. But even before that, he had devoted his weekly audiences to close-up studies of the individual men and women of the New Testament. Afterward, he went on to the Church Fathers and the medieval teachers, considering them especially as biblical interpreters.
“Meanwhile, he has spent every moment of his ‘spare time’ writing his multivolume study Jesus of Nazareth.
“These acts of Benedict’s papacy are certainly continuous with the labors of his pre-papal lifetime. It’s as if God’s grace has brought his life’s work as a theologian to a kind of completion, or perfection, with the gift of Petrine authority.”
— Scott Hahn, Ph.D., founder and president of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology
“God always blesses his Church with the type of leader it needs at each time in history. That was certainly true when the College of Cardinals elevated Cardinal Josef Ratzinger to the papacy in 2005.
“In 2005’s Deus Caritas Est, his first encyclical letter, the Pope asserts that ‘to say we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor.’ The pro-life movement is all about love for our neighbors, particularly those in the womb and those whose frailty or illness has pushed them to the margins of society. Later, he writes that the Church ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’
“When President Obama visited Pope Benedict at the Vatican last year, the Pope presented the president with two documents, the encyclical Caritas in Veritate and Dignitas Personae, a document on bioethics. A key point of the former document is that social justice cannot advance unless the right to life is protected. This is where pro-abortion politicians and parties so often get it wrong.”
— Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life
“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.”
— Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio and the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations since 2002