Serious and Consistent Leader

Celebrating 5 Years With Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict celebrates Mass in Jerusalem.
Pope Benedict celebrates Mass in Jerusalem. (photo: CNS photo)

Bishop Robert Finn is bishop of St. Joseph-Kansas City, Missouri.

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s election as successor to Peter and Vicar of Christ, we give thanks to God for a true father in faith. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger already had come to be known as an extraordinary theologian. As Pope, Benedict XVI has shown the world the love of a faithful pastor.

When some dubbed him “God’s Rottweiler,” the Pope showed again and again his quiet capacity to connect with persons of all backgrounds. He won over young people at World Youth Days when this had been thought to be the unique jurisdiction of his venerable predecessor. His visit to the United States introduced him to the English-speaking world and sealed the local love affair.

Following the explosive reaction to his Regensburg address, Pope Benedict quickly convinced Muslims in Turkey — by his respect and prayerful comportment — that he was a friend and trustworthy collaborator. Visits to Jewish synagogues have contributed to the conviction that this Holy Father is prepared for sincere interreligious dialogue.

The Pope has given us, thus far, three extraordinary encyclicals: on theological charity (Deus Caritas Est), hope (Spe Salvi), and the meaning of charity in the context of the Church’s social doctrine (Caritas in Veritate). Here we see his clear style of teaching and the priority he places on the meaning of authentic love. Alongside these more formal offerings come the books, particularly Scripture studies: new examples of his lifelong affinity for research and scholarly exchange.

This Holy Father has a burning desire for reconciliation and unity among Christians. His affirmation of the extraordinary form of the Mass in Summorum Pontificum, generous overtures to members of the Society of St. Pius X, and his initiatives to create a personal ordinariate for Anglicans represent a substantive outreach to the closest of our Christian brethren.

Within the Church, he has kept a staggering pace of audiences and pastoral visits and is quickly accumulating a decisive magisterium that includes a systematic catechesis on the Fathers of the Church and several major exhortations: on the Eucharist, human life and bioethics, and evangelization, to name just a few.

With paternal solicitude the Pope has offered a serious and consistent leadership in the most troubling crises of sexual abuse. In his former role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now as the visible head of the Church on earth, he has absorbed harsh criticism while reaching out to victims, and at the same time safeguarding the integrity of Church law and due process.

When Pope Benedict XVI approaches the altar of God, his love for the priesthood and the holy sacrifice of the Mass becomes clear. Here we see his great joy and peace in leading the Church’s prayer in continuity with the authentic spirit of the council. This is clearly the center and highest expression of both his priestly life and his pontificate.

In the first five years of the apostolic ministry of Pope Benedict XVI, this dedicated priest, scholar and Holy Father has been servant of the servants of God, leading the Church and the world with holiness and love. May God bless him and preserve him for many more years!

About This Series

Now more than ever, we need to be reminded of what a 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. Christ prayed for him that his faith might not fail, that he might strengthen his brethren.

The untold story right now in the media is how much God has worked through Pope Benedict XVI 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.

As the media tries in vain to pin the lion’s share of the blame for the developing abuse scandal on him, 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 tributes tell why.

We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did.

— The Editors