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Love is the Lodestone

· Cardinal George on Pope Benedict XVI's fifth anniversary ·

“If we look at Christ, he is all sympathy, and that makes him precious to us. Being sympathetic, being vulnerable, is part of being a Christian. One must learn to accept injuries, to live with wounds, and in the end to find therein a deeper healing”.

The joys and demands of loving form the heart of Pope Benedict's teachings. In the Encyclicals, in the Audiences, in the Homilies and Conferences, the world has heard for five years how those made in God's image and likeness and redeemed by Jesus Christ are to unite every aspect of human life in the embrace of God's love.

His teaching finds expression in his life. Recognized at his election as a renowned scholar, a prolific writer and a profoundly insightful theologian, he has shown the world in these past five years a sensitive pastoral heart that has led him beyond himself into the sorrows of the world.

While the demands of travel are heavy, he has made more than twelve foreign journeys and eighteen others in Italy itself. He has traveled to his native Germany and to Australia to celebrate World Youth Day with young disciples of Jesus. He spoke to some of the youngest Catholics in a meeting with First Communicants in Rome only a few days after his installation as Pope. When one child asked what to do if your parents won't take you to church, Pope Benedict suggested that others, such as grandparents, might be willing to do so. He understood. He doesn't talk down to young people; he speaks the truth to them, and they listen.

As do others. He has spoken with Muslims in Turkey, in Jordan and in the Palestinian territories; and he has spoken to Jews in Israel and in Synagogues in Rome and in New York. He has spoken to American presidents in the White House in Washington and in the Apostolic Palace in Rome.

He has spoken to the victims of sexual abuse during his visits to the United States, Australia and, most recently, Malta. Those who witnessed his meetings with people who had been abused by priests saw that those who were hurt could find in him someone to cry with them, to model the vulnerability of Christ. They sensed his own sorrow at their suffering. Long before these meetings, the Pope had studied the records of cases and taken decisive steps to address both the bureaucratic slowness that exacerbates wounds and the culture of entitlement that allows such crimes to occur. He faces the challenge of encouraging the many thousands of priests who are betrayed by the sins of their brothers and of speaking to the millions of Catholics horrified that such offenses occurred in the Church they love.

Love searches to keep together all those who call Christ “Lord”, and Pope Benedict has reached out to reconcile disaffected Catholics and to call to new unity both Orthodox and Protestant Christians. He has spoken to the vocation of intellectuals in the Church and the calling of diplomats to work for peace.

A year of St Paul and a year for priests, a Synod on the Eucharist and another on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church are occasions to speak to what should unite us, and the Pope does not disappoint. Benedict knows that the forces of secularism will continue to counter his initiatives to preach the Gospel in all its beauty and truth. But he knows as well and tells us constantly that love is stronger than death and despair.

The Cardinals who elected him to hold Peter's chair and to govern as Vicar of Christ in the universal Church rely on his strength, thank God for his teaching and rejoice that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, corrects our weaknesses, heals the Church and unites her to her always sympathetic Lord.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 22, 2019

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