The fifth year of Benedict XVI's Pontificate is beginning. He was elected with almost unprecedented speed by the largest Conclave ever held.
Yet the new Pope did not celebrate his election in triumphant tones and in his Homily at the inaugural Mass of his service as Bishop of Rome, he said something surprising “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves” [with reference to siding with the lambs] ( L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 27 April 2005, p. 9), a strong image whose meaning can be understood, especially in these recent months of tribulation.
Familiar with tradition, the Pontiff knows that events of the Church in this world are like the alternating phases of the moon which ceaselessly waxes and wanes and whose splendour depends on the light of the sun, in other words, Christ. Thus, the mystery of the moon described by ancient Christian authors is like that of the Church, often persecuted, frequently darkened by the pollution of the sins of her many children – as Joseph Ratzinger said shortly before his election – but which never fails to grow, illumined by her Lord.
It is the Pope's essential duty to bring and to show Christ's light to dispel the shadows of the world – as the Bishop of Rome did once again in the initial darkness of the Easter Vigil, with a gesture repeated in every corner of the earth. Aware as he is that in many countries, even those with a long Christian tradition, this light risks being extinguished, as he wrote in his last Letter to the Bishops. With sorrowful amazement at the distortion of the facts, he elucidated the priorities of his Pontificate that had been misunderstood.
Firstly, is the testimony and proclamation that God is not distant from every human person but, as the Eastern liturgies constantly repeat, a true friend to men and women.
This is why Benedict XVI asks people not to exclude the transcendent quality from the horizon of history, for this reason he asks them, with the same trust as his Predecessors, at least not to close themselves to the – reasonable – possibility of God. He is not just any god or, worse, idol – in consumer societies where idolatry is similar to that of antiquity – but rather the God who revealed himself to Moses, that is, the Word who took flesh in Jesus.
To speak of God, Benedict XVI celebrates him in the liturgy and explains him as few Bishops of Rome have in the interests of peace in the Church that he wishes to re-establish, as he has – with an offering of pardon and reconciliation that is in perfect continuity with the Second Vatican Council – in the exchanges with Lefebvre's Bishops.
For this reason the Pope wishes to advance on the ecumenical path, for this reason he has strengthened the desire for friendship and religious seeking in common with the Jewish people, for this reason he is accelerating exchanges with the other great religions, with attention above all to their cultural roots; in such a way that these encounters may bear real fruit on practical topics, from respect for religious freedom to that of the dignity of the human person, as is happening today with the Muslims.
So, it is striking that this clear progress is ignored and, especially in certain European countries, people continue to portray Benedict XVI and Catholics in a negative and hostile light, as happened with the clouding over of his Journey in Africa and with the media's silence regarding the Easter Homilies.
But the Pope is not afraid of the wolves. And this is because he is supported by the prayers of the Church, which, like the moon, always draws her light from the sun.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 16, 2019
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