We were surfing the television set waiting for midnight so we could properly welcome 2023 when news of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI became a hot topic online. My immediate reaction was about the timing. How could one pass away just a few hours before the coming of the new year?
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was already 78 years old when he became pope, following the death of Pope John Paul II. Eight years into his papacy, he decided to let go because of his deteriorating health. Rarely does a pontiff do so considering the immense power the position wields. He was replaced by Pope Francis. He got the position of pope emeritus and promptly retired to a place inside the Vatican. We didn’t hear anything much from him after that until we received reports of his recent failing health.
Pope Benedict was what we may call a conservative. He did not promote radical or progressive views and instead defended the Church’s orthodox views. This may be because he came in at a time when many priests were accused of sexual misconduct and the Church itself was placed on the defensive. Frankly, I was at one time enamored by the Liberation Theology espoused mainly by some Latin American priests. But Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II frowned on it and actively opposed the Liberation Theology views. Pope Benedict was with John Paul II.
Pope Francis, I would say, is slightly different in views from both Benedict and John Paul II. I say slightly because whatever progressive thought the current pope carries has not been translated into wide-ranging changes inside the Catholic Church. Wasn’t it under Benedict that a few changes were made in the wording of the Holy Mass? Francis merely loosened up on some Church dogmas.
The death of a pope emeritus does not usher in changes in the dogmas or organization of the Church. It would have been different if Benedict remained active and did not retire because the Church would be forced to look for a replacement. Pope Francis is already there. In fact, after the death of Benedict was announced, Pope Francis was seen on St. Peter’s Basilica grounds, roaming the place in a wheelchair. He is also old and may have to be replaced soon also.
Which brings me to our very own Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who was once described as somebody who could be pope. Unfortunately, he has suffered setbacks lately with his supervision of Caritas International. I don’t know how much this dented his image and his popularity within the conclave of cardinals who will choose Pope Francis’ replacement, if ever.
But it’s good that the Church has not been hit with controversies under the current pope. I also do not know, though, how far the current pope has gone in implementing reforms, especially in the financial aspect. I read many articles discussing this matter after Francis took the reins of the Vatican. There were hopes for changes at that time. But we should not expect much because, after all, the Vatican is a medieval organization and a very hierarchical one.
January 02, 2023
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