Batuhan: Viva il Papa-A A +A
Saturday, February 16, 2013
AS TREMORS go, this was certainly a big one.
No, this did not move the needle on the Richter scale. But on the spiritual scale, the needle moved indeed, in a big way. I am talking about Pope Benedict XVI, of course, who just this week announced that he was abdicating the Petrine ministry, effective the end of this month. That’s it. Not a lot of fanfare, and without much ado over the whole thing. The Holy Father just matter-of-factly stated that he felt he was no longer up to the task, and was giving it up in favor of somebody else who had more facility for carrying out the functions of the papal office.
As far as major announcements go, the Pope’s could not have been more low-key. But those who have been keenly observing him during his years as pope unanimously declare that it is in keeping with the man’s character, as a low-key, meek and humble servant of God.
Now, what to make of it? Well, if you ask the secular press, a meal—of course. No sooner had the news hit the worldwide web, than all sorts of speculation and conjecture began forming about the reasons for his stepping down. Some point out to the baggage of the sexual abuse scandals in the United States, to his “tensions” with some Islamic leaders because of some past pronouncements, even the theft by his butler of some of his personal memoirs—these were all advanced as possible reasons for his departure.
Of course, in the same breath as second guessing why the pontiff was leaving, the very same secular press also – unsolicitedly so – began giving their “recommendations” for what the next pope should be, and what characteristics he should possess. Favorite issues like the church’s stand on abortion and contraception, the ordination of women, celibacy for the priesthood, etc. were all mentioned, as if to say that the next pope should liberalize the church and throw out all its teachings and doctrines, in favor of a more secular and worldly approach to things.
On the issues of his departure, it is hard to speculate beyond what the pope himself has given as his own reason – that he felt he did not anymore have the energy to lead God’s flock here on earth. There is nothing wrong with this admission of human, physical weakness. After all, the papacy is a truly energy-sapping task, requiring a high degree of travel and attendance in public events. If he felt he could not continue with the level that he feels is required to do justice to the role, then his abdication is a divinely-inspired choice.
And what about to those who want to dictate what the next pope should be like?
Ironically, a lot of them are not even Catholic. So many of the so-called “recommendations” would not be any more alien than non-Americans telling the next president of the United States to relax its borders and allow free entry of illegal immigrants, loosen its anti-terrorism laws, and generally just acquiesce to a lot of things that would be harmful to America.
So the answer to a lot of the secular endorsements would be an unequivocal NO. No church, state or any organization, for that matter would long survive, if it allowed its very detractors and enemies to dictate what it must do. It should not even allow those internal to the organization to water down its beliefs and convictions, lest it weaken the legitimacy of its core teachings.
So, it is challenging days ahead, and the faithful must pray for guidance, that the election of a new leader will be for the good of the church. And for our outgoing pope, let us greet him a resounding “Vila il Papa,” for being a good shepherd of the flock, in these most trying of times for the faith.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 17, 2013.