Dalil Boubakeur is in his office at the Grand Mosque in Paris, where he has poured mint tea. The mosque is an imposing example of Muslim architecture, not far from the Seine, and was built in 1926 to recognize the colonial Muslim troops who had fought for France during World War I.
Boubakeur, who knows Latin and is as well-versed in the history of the Catholic Church as he is in the Koran, is an admirer of Germany, which he got to know after World War II. “I love its regions, its literature and its history,” Boubakeur says. He apologizes for his somewhat rusty German. “I don’t have much of an opportunity to speak it,” he said. “The last time was with Pope Benedict.”
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your excellency, Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down on February 28. What do you wish for from the future pontiff?
Boubakeur: A reversal. Christianity under Pope Benedict XVI started becoming more doctrinaire. He was not able to understand Muslims. He had no direct experience with Islam, and he found nothing positive to say about our beliefs.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You met Benedict XVI during his visit to Paris in 2008. What impression did he make on you during your personal discussions?
Boubakeur: Benedict was shy, reserved, very much the result of a traditional, strict upbringing — friendly, but always keeping a distance.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: At the World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, only a few months after he was elected, the pope said that inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims shouldn’t be an optional extra. Were his words followed by actions?
Boubakeur: No, not at all. They turned out to be empty words, a fact which I have deeply regretted. And his speech in September 2006 at the University of Regensburg only deepened my disappointment.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In that speech, Benedict quoted the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, saying: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only bad and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” What did you think at that time?
Boubakeur: I knew that it was a lecture in front of students and professors, so he was sending an educational message. But the appearance was shaped by an outdated approach to the relationship between Christianity and Islam.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: It resulted in uproar in the Muslim world, protests in Arab countries and attacks on Christians in the Middle East.
Boubakeur: Understandably. The decisions of the Second Vatican Council for inter-religious dialogue seemed to have been forgotten, and we are back to the relationship that has been described as the “Muslim-Christian polemic.” To me, it seemed like a return to those early days when the Christian Church judged Islam to be heresy.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Have any bitter feelings remained?
Boubakeur: It was wrong to remind people of the conflicts between Christianity and Islam, of these terrible confrontations that lasted for centuries. In doing so, Benedict made room for a dogmatic, misleading interpretation.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Criticism has to be allowed. The pope had reminded people of religious freedom when Christians in Arab countries were being discriminated against and persecuted.
Boubakeur: Correct. But sometimes this espousal came with an undercurrent of Islamophobia, when the criticism was made using terms that were otherwise disseminated by opponents of Islam. Benedict XVI repeated what he was told, but without personal sympathy. Where was the talk of brotherhood?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Has the German pope been more of an inspector of theological purity than a shepherd?
Boubakeur: Benedict XVI was undoubtedly profoundly influenced by his work as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an office he held before his election (to the papacy) in Rome. That was his role, his function, his mission.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: One of your many publications is entitled “The Shock of Religions: Jews, Christians, Muslims — is Coexistence Possible?” In the book, from 2004, you answered the question positively. And today?
Boubakeur: Still the same answer. But it requires that, in order to coexist in a society, religions have to feel committed to the same values. It is only when no single belief exclusively receives preferential treatment that the conditions exist for a true democracy and conflict-free coexistence. So, with a new pope, one would hope to have a fresh start for dialogue between the religions.
In the late evening of Aug. 6, 1978, a heavy iron chain was pulled across the door of the papal summer palace. All the lights in the area were turned off, and the flag was set at half-mast. The fountain on the village square in front of the palace ran dry, and the bells of the nearby church began to ring. These symbolic signs marked the end of Pope Paul VI’s term in office. He had died at his summer residence at 9:40 p.m., a few hours after having a massive heart attack.
Just like his predecessors, Pope Paul had withdrawn from the Vatican when the hot summer months began, heading to Castel Gandolfo to enjoy the cool climate and relax during long strolls through the gardens at the almost 400-year-old papal palace.
At 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2013, the third papacy in the history of the Catholic Church will come to an end at this history-rich location in the Alban Hills, where Pope Benedict XVI will go while a conclave is held to choose his successor. It’s a striking place, and not just because of its long history. It was here that Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96) once ordered the bloody persecution of early Christians. Roman emperors had come to appreciate the climate it offered at 426 meters (1,400 feet) above sea level, and Domitian had a palace erected here. Around 1200, the Gandolfi family from Genoa, which Castel Gandolfi would later be named after, built a villa here. Since 1596, the main part of what is now the papal summer residence has been owned by the Vatican.
Urban VIII (1623-1649) had the massive summer palace built and was the first pope to vacation here. German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited the town in 1787, while on his famous Italian journey, and gushingly praised its idyllic location on the deep-blue Lake Albano. The popes held it in equal esteem, and almost all of them would make annual pilgrimages to the site.
This tradition came to a sudden end in 1870, when Italian soldiers took control of the Papal State and then-Pope Pius IX declared himself a “prisoner in the Vatican” in protest. Legend holds that the pope lived out the last eight years of his life without setting foot outside Rome’s Apostolic Palace, the residence of modern-day popes. The same fate awaited his successors, leaving Castel Gandolfo to fall into a type of hibernation for several decades.
This all ended in 1929, when the Lateran Treaty, signed with what was then the Kingdom of Italy, guaranteed the Holy See its summer residence in perpetuity. Castel Gandolfo was designated part of the territory of the Vatican City State and would enjoy extraterritorial status from then on.
Secret Refuge for Jews
In 1934, Pius XI became the first 20th-century pope to visit the palace. He had the old masonry repaired and outfitted the residence with radios, telephones, heating, electric lights and an elevator. A year later, he celebrated the establishment of a new telescope for the Vatican Observatory on the palace’s roof. The astronomers of the Papal See migrated from the Vatican Gardens to Castel Gandolfo because all the electric lights in the Eternal City had made things too bright. Along with them came the Vatican’s meteorite collection, one of the most significant collections of cosmic rocks in the world.
Pius XI also had greenhouses and cattle barns set up so that the Vatican could provide itself with food — a far-sighted decision. In May 1938, when Hitler made an official state visit to Rome to meet with Mussolini and the entire city was decked with Nazi flags, Pius XI and Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli, the later Pope Pius XII, demonstrably withdrew to Castel Gandolfo. The pope was intent on avoiding having to meet with the German dictator, whom he had sharply criticized — without naming Hitler directly — as a “prophet of delusion” a year earlier in his “Mit brennender Sorge” (“With burning concern”) encyclical. Pius XI remained at Castel Gandolfo for six months before returning to Rome in late October 1938, where he died shortly thereafter.
In August 1939, the new pope, Pius XII, made a global appeal to the world from Castel Gandolfo: “Nothing is lost with peace, everything may be lost in a war.” But his warnings were ignored and, within a few years, both war and Nazi terror would also reach Rome and its surroundings. In 1943, German soldiers would occupy the Eternal City and began deporting Roman Jews. Pius XII initially didn’t react to the persecution of Jews taking place outside his windows. Later, he would order churches, cloisters and other Vatican properties — including Castel Gandolfo — to be used to shelter for those being targeted.
Several hundred Jews were supposedly kept hidden and provided with kosher food at the summer residence. Gaining more precise information about this matter is difficult because the related Vatican files are still sealed. What is certain, however, is that in October 1943, the Vatican dispatched a contingent of papal Palatine Guards to stand guard at Castel Gandolfo. This unit was then gradually strengthened by volunteers until the Vatican exclave was protected by thousands.
Papal Bedroom as Birthing Chamber
In the spring of 1944, thousands of people from nearby took advantage of the special legal status of Castel Gandolfo to seek refuge from Allied bombing raids. The territory of the neutral Vatican was considered inviolable and safe from attack. Even so, on the morning of February 10, a bomb dropped from a plane fell on the summer residence right when a crowd of people was gathering for the distribution of the daily milk ration. Over the following days, more than 500 corpses were dug out from beneath the wreckage.
At roughly the same time, the papal chambers had come to resemble a maternity ward. Pregnant refugees had sought safety there, and the screams of newborn babies were heard in the papal bedroom. The Vatican says that some 40 children were born at Castel Gandolfo during this period. In thanks, many mothers even named their children after Pius XII, christening them Pio, the Italian version of Pius, or Eugenio, the pope’s given first name.
Pius XII himself didn’t return to Castel Gandolfo until 1946, and his last visit was on July 24, 1958. By that point, he only had two months to live. In early October, he suffered two strokes in the papal summer residence, which left him in agony for several days. For the first time, the eyes of the world were directed not on Rome, but on Castel Gandolfo, some 25 kilometers away.
‘I Want the Dead Pope Live!’
The TV crews arrived, Vatican Radio set up a makeshift radio studio in the summer palace, and newspapers dispatched special correspondents, who were forced to sit outside its doors around the clock. In the competition to be the first to report the pope’s death, there were a number of premature announcements. The news coordinator in Brussels of Eurovision, the pan-European television network that was launched in 1950 to share content (and that organizes the annual song contest), reportedly exhorted his counterparts at Rai, the Italian public broadcaster, to stay vigilant with the words “I want the dead pope live!” He finally died early on the morning of Oct. 9, 1958.
John Paul II precipitated a media event of a completely different sort, as the first pope to use the papal summer residence for athletic activities. He played tennis, kicked around a ball with the sons of the gardeners and swam laps in a pool specially built for him. To those who criticized the pool’s construction, he countered that electing a new pope would be even more expensive. Paparazzi took advantage of the opportunity and snapped photographs of the pope in his swimming trunks.
In the mid-1980s, the Polish pope once again made his summer residence a topic of conversation by inviting prominent philosophers and theologians for visits. During the so-called Castel Gandolfo Talks, held in the Swiss Hall, the pope would sit in his armchair in the corner listening in silence. If he was interested in or disagreed with something in one of the lectures, he would invite the person who delivered it to eat lunch with him in his dining room.
Benedict XVI, the professor pope, continued this tradition of inviting prominent figures to the summer residence. In addition to former Ph.D. students and classmates, he would host others at Castel Gandolfo, including church critic Hans Küng, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bernand Fellay, the superior general of the ultraconservative Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), and the ambassadors of several Muslim countries. The latter were quickly summoned to Gandolfo in September 2006 to smooth things over after he had sparked an uproar with an address he delivered in the German city of Regensburg that leading figures in Islam criticized as “hate speech.”
The elderly pope is now withdrawing to Castel Gandolfo while his successor is being chosen in Rome. But there he will also be confronted with the dark sides of his papacy. This residence in the Alban Hills might have also been the place where he reached his decision to step down. It was here that he withdrew to in early April 2012, after an exhausting trip to Mexico and Cuba and the energy-sapping Easter celebrations.
Less than a year later, he is returning here from Rome as a pope emeritus. Once his successor is installed, he will return to the Vatican and reside in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery.
This article originally appeared in German on einestages.de,
SPIEGEL ONLINE’s history portal.
February 28, 2013 at 8pm. This is no Mayan prediction; it reflects the Teutonic precision of one of a handful of popes in the history of the Catholic Church who voluntarily gave up the seat of St Peter.
When, eight years ago, Joseph Ratzinger was chosen to succeed Pope John Paul II, he was 78 years old. Pope Benedict XVI was the oldest prelate to be given the job since 1730 and many saw his papacy as an interim one.
In an article carried in The Times just after his appointment, I had written that the key mission that Benedict set for his pontificate was to return Europe to Christianity; to combat secularism and relativism, which he saw as the main enemies of Catholicism.
The German Shepherd’s decision shocked the Catholic world as his mission remains largely unaccomplished.
A liberal reformer turned arch-conservative, he was instrumental in quashing ‘liberation theology’. And, yet, during his tenure, Pope Benedict XVI showed great intellectual flexibility. His social policies offered a critique of the excesses of ‘capitalist’ globalisation, the frivolity of consumerism and the evils of social inequality. In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est he exalted love in all its human forms.
In his wisdom, Benedict possibly realised how right Greek historian Polybius was in stating that “a good general not only sees the way to victory; he also knows when victory is impossible”. A University professor who shunned the limelight, Benedict was not renowned for his leadership skills. Still, his resignation is a lesson that leadership is above all acting in the best interests of followers rather than a glorified ego trip.
The way is now paved for the election of a younger Pope fit to run a global institution with over one billion followers. Who knows, perhaps the decision of ‘God’s Rottweiler’ will mark the start of a new trend whereby popes stay on only until they deem themselves fit, to fulfil their mission. This is in sharp contrast to Pope John Paul II’s choice to remain in office, despite his fragility caused by Parkinson’s disease and other maladies.
It was Benedict’s predecessor himself who had decreed that members of the episcopate retire at 75 and that cardinals do not join a conclave past 80. What is good for the goose, has to be good for the gander. There is nothing but tradition which stops the Bishop of Rome from retiring. Church law specifies only that such a resignation has to be “freely made and properly manifested”.
Marco Ventura, professor of law and religion at Siena University, wrote in his blog: “The theologian who held relativism as the worst foe of the Church will be the Pope who relativised the papacy.”
Pope Benedict XVI chose the World Day of the Sick to announce his abdication. He read a short note in Latin indicating ill-health and the lack of strength in “body and mind” to carry out his mission.
The only other Pontiff who resigned because of ill-health was Celestine V. A former hermit, in 1294, Celestine left after having been in office for just a few months. Other popes have stepped down for a variety of reasons in the papacy’s coloured mediaeval history.
Pope Benedict’s resignation triggered a tsunami of speculation as to what made him take such a drastic step. Was it just that the ailing Benedict was afraid of ending up like his predecessor? Many observers believe that the real reasons are to be found in the controversies and conflicts that have surfaced during his papacy.
La Repubblica speaks about a report that links the resignation to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom could have been subject to blackmail. Others blame the persistent infighting at the Vatican as manifested during the Vatileaks scandal.
Although no newcomer to the Vatican, Benedict XVI was probably unaware of all the intrigue and, feeling impotent to impose the necessary reforms and, just like the Pope in the 2011 film Habemus Papam, he decided to call it a day.
Other commentators have pointed to the sexual abuse scandals in many parts of the world that continue to undermine the Church’s moral authority and to mar Benedict’s rule.
The departing Pope repeatedly apologised about these abuses but was himself criticised that, when Archbishop of Munich, he allowed a known molester to return to pastoral duties to protect the Church’s reputation.
As the eminent theologian retires into the seclusion of a monastery within the Vatican, it is hard to judge the legacy he leaves behind.
His conservatism, sticking to obsolete positions on homosexuality, celibacy, abortion and contraception, did not serve to bring the Church closer to its followers.
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who passed away last August, accused the Church’s leadership for its being “left behind for 200 years”. Pope Benedict XVI perhaps realised that the time is ripe for a radical change in the Church, which he could never deliver himself. The bets are, once again, on a Pope from a Third World country.
The wisdom of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign will be largely gauged by who is chosen to succeed him.
AVE MARIA -
As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to leave his post, Ave Maria is honoring him with several events, including several special masses.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane has asked all of the parishes in the diocese to honor the Pope with Masses of Thanksgiving – and they are, to give thanks to Pope Benedict for his service to the church.
The three masses on Wednesday will happen at 7:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.
They’re expected to pray for Pope Benedict’s health and also pray for the bishops who have a very large task ahead of them as they start the process of electing a new Pope.
Rod Miller and his wife attended the early morning mass at Ave Maria.
“It’s a time to be happy, it’s a time to be pleased that the will of God is being activated through the church, we’re going to get a renewed vibration and a renewed reverence,” he says.
Earlier Wednesday morning, the Pope gave his final general audience, the weekly appointment he kept to teach the world about the Catholic faith.
Tomorrow, Pope Benedict will meet with the cardinals. Later, his papacy will end. He is the 265th pope in the history of the Catholic Church and the first to step down in six centuries.
“This is a man that is definitely full of humility, full of courage that knows himself, knows his calling to serve our church and knows his weaknesses as well and that this is a time that he he feels confident that the lord is asking him to pass on his reign to another pope,” says Mass attendee Chris Smith.
As for his replacement, as soon as Monday, cardinals will begin the process of electing a new pope.
What people are saying about his successor’s election and the Vatican
Tristan Stewart-Robertson,First Post: “In his final address to an enthusiastic crowd at the Vatican on Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI said: ‘I took this step (resignation) in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit. I’m really moved. You keep the church alive.’ … When the flock is so large and so diverse, it may be that the Catholic Church requires a younger shepherd. That person may have the energy of youth, in turn, but lack the wisdom afforded by age. Whether you agreed with it or not, the pope certainly had/has wisdom. It is a wisdom based on his personal faith and conviction, and that’s important to understand.”
Joan Vennochi, The Boston Globe: “The Catholic Church can’t get to a bright, new future until it finally breaks with the ugliness of the past. One way to make such a break would be to keep Cardinal Roger Mahony from participating in the next election to determine a new pope. … Two weeks ago, Mahony was relieved of all public duties. … Mahony actively worked to protect priests who were abusing children from police. … Despite those sentiments, Mahony remains a ‘bishop in good standing.’ … This blindness of the Catholic hierarchy to the need for personal accountability is an old, sad story.”
Peter Weber, The Week: “Last week, Italy’s La Republica newspaper reported, without naming any sources, that Pope Benedict had decided to abdicate … after receiving a secret report on financial improprieties, corruption and blackmail linked to a network of sexually active gay priests and Vatican officials. … According to a Vatican statement … Pope Benedict ‘has decided that the acts of this investigation, known only to himself, remain solely at the disposition of the new pope.’ … The cardinal-electors will be flying blind, picking a new leader without knowing what he’ll have to clean up — or even whether he’s implicated in the mess.”
Barbie Latza Nadeau, The Daily Beast: “When Cardinal Keith O’Brien handed in his resignation as archbishop of Scotland … last year, he likely had no idea how relevant it would become in the history of the Catholic Church. The resignation was made … ‘now for later’ — to be dealt with when the pope had time for such matters. But Pope Benedict … only found time to approve O’Brien’s resignation last Friday. The resignation … is just the latest in an avalanche of sleazy scandals to rock the Vatican since the pope tendered his resignation on Feb. 11. And, given the speed at which the Vatican’s skeletons are surfacing, O’Brien’s resignation has left many wondering how many cardinals will be left by the time the conclave begins.”
Teresa Puente,Newsday: “What Catholics need most is a leader who will welcome everyone into the church and who will look at ways to examine whether church doctrine makes sense in today’s modern world. Birth control, gay marriage and women priests are just some of the issues some Catholics like myself would like the church to re-examine.”
Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review: “Pope Benedict has been a teacher, first and foremost, reintroducing a transformative proposal that Christ himself offered. And it so happens that men and women, wanting to be good, living lives in service in love of God, men and women whose lives are well ordered — are good to have around. Enough with the campaign for less Catholicism in the Catholic Church.”
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.
(Photo by Dennis Callahan/Catholic San Francisco)
Reporters interview Cardinal William J. Levada at St. Patrick’s Seminary University Feb. 25, after the former San Francisco archbishop held a press conference to discuss his role in the conclave to elect a new pope.
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February 27th, 2013
By Rick DelVecchio
A top candidate for the next pope will be a man of faith and prayer with skill in major languages and a record of leadership in a major archdiocese or Vatican office – ideally both, Cardinal William J. Levada said Feb. 25 as he prepared to leave for Rome to join as many as 116 other cardinals in a conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Levada, during a press conference at St. Patrick’s Seminary University in Menlo Park, said that in a church that has become thoroughly globalized in the past 50 to 60 years the influence of cardinals from around the world “will have great impact.”
“In regard to the needs to the church, the different cultural situations – Africa, America, Asia, the Middle East, those historic churches coming up from the time of Christ’s own generation – each has its own series of problems,” he said. “All of these things will play a part in this. Is the person we’re considering knowledgeable about those needs? Is he sensitive to them?”
Cardinal Levada did not speculate on the background of any cardinal he thinks may make a top pick but played down the possibility of an American pope.
“I don’t know what the Las Vegas odds makers are saying today but I don’t think it’s likely that we will see an American pope,” said Cardinal Levada, who served as archbishop of San Francisco from 1995-2005. “And I say that for this reason: It would be an additional complexity for an American pope to have to deal with the perception that some of his decisions might be perceived to be dictated by American governmental policy.”
He said that perception could be a problem for the church in the rest of the world.
“On the other hand, if an American pope is elected – provided it’s not me – I will give him my obedience and support any way I can,” Cardinal Levada said.
Cardinal Levada, who said the prospect of the conclave is “pretty challenging, pretty exciting,” contrasted Pope Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
“John Paul II was unique,” he said. “He was an extraordinary person. There’s not a model for that.”
The conclave “will look at the appropriate charisms and the balance” of men whose qualifications cardinals are considering for the papacy, he said.
Cardinal Levada served Pope Benedict for seven years as prefect of the Vatican’s doctrinal office. In that job he met routinely with the pope for an hour every week and was impressed with his ability to listen, synthesize a response from various views and give credit to contributors. He also said the pope leaves an “immense patrimony” of homilies, catechesis, encyclicals and addresses.
“I watched him learn how to be pope, but his gifts are more intellectual and, if you will, passive, not being so comfortable on the stage,” Cardinal Levada said.
The cardinal-electors who will gather at the Sistine Chapel in the days following Pope Benedict’s Feb. 28 resignation will look for a mix, he said. “I think probably I will tend toward looking for a younger man who has better energies at least for a while to really be able to give himself completely to this,” he said, clarifying later that “youth is a relative thing.”
Asked what he considers the most pressing issue the next pope will have to address, Cardinal Levada answered without hesitation: “Better ways of communication – better ways of presenting the beauty of the faith and its truth and what it offers to people.
“I’ve talked before about the need to rekindle a solid, friendly apologetics for intelligent Catholics,” he said. Catholics catechized as children make great progress in their careers but less so in their faith, he said.
“I think there’s a lot to be done,” Cardinal Levada said. “That’s one of the major challenges. Another would be what are the dimensions of this new evangelization we’re inviting people to think about and how to implement it. Can we be, and should we be, more active? How do we go about doing that?”
He said the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, created by Pope Benedict, has expanded its role to include the religious education of lay people and is in a position to offer help to bishops.
Asked how the new pope can address the issue of Catholics who are not listening to the hierarchy, he said the church could offer “some kind of way of insinuating these good ideas into people who are not hierarchs.”
Would the hierarchy allow that?
“Of course,” he answered. “We’d foment it.”
Asked about the division between Catholic doctrine and some U.S. Catholics, especially concerning the role of women, Cardinal Levada underscored the validity of the apostolic tradition but noted “there is some tension we need to be able to address.”
Vatican II created opportunities for laity to participate in liturgy and in leadership through parish councils, he said. The laity also serve in their witness to society, through acts of charity and love, he said.
“I hope that those opportunities for a greater sense of dialogue and ownership will be given greater prominence in the future,” Cardinal Levada said. “That’s been one of my hopes, and I worked hard as archbishop to try to implement that vision.”
Cardinal Levada said he will be the first former archbishop of San Francisco to have the privilege and duty of helping to elect a pope.
“To exercise it I will rely on the prayers of all the faithful in the church,” he said. “Jesus has assured that the prayers we fervently pray to God will receive a response. I ask as well the good will and prayers of the whole community for this important moment in the history of the Catholic Church.”
From March 1, 2013 issue of Catholic San Francisco.
More Headline News
The church and the world are still absorbing the shock of the announcement that on February 28th Pope Benedict XVI will become the first in modern history to resign from the papacy (the last two were Gregory XII in 1415 and St. Celestine V in 1294). In the wake of this bold decision, one fact shines through: only he could do this.
First, literally: The Code of Canon Law says the only prerequisite for papal resignation is that it be given freely (332). Pope Benedict made clear in his announcement that this was an act of free will preceded by much prayer and reflection on the matter.
The pope also said things that only he could say: The world is changing rapidly. People are asking many questions with deep relevance for the faith. The pope must be up to the challenge. No one could ever tell the pope this or force him to listen. But the pope could decide it for himself. And in doing so he sends a powerful message about the demands and the essential role of the papacy in today’s world.
Then there’s the little detail that the history books are full of people who never willingly gave up their power. In resigning the papacy, Pope Benedict puts himself in very rare company. He’s someone concerned with more than earthly power. Very few people can do that.
A papal resignation also raises the ugly point that the Catholic Church has a painful history when it comes to having more than one living person with a claim on the papacy. Setting a modern precedent requires someone who is willing to remove himself completely from the picture for the good of the church’s unity. Pope Benedict has already indicated his intention to do this.
Then there’s the issue that the church simply hasn’t experienced this in modern times. It raises questions: Will the retiring pope participate in the conclave to elect his successor? (He will not.) What will his title be? (His Holiness Benedict XVI, pope-emeritus) Where will he live? (in a cloister within in the Vatican, leading a life dedicated to prayer) Will his Fisherman’s Ring, a symbol of his authority, be destroyed, as is the case with deceased popes? (yes) These are complicated questions of theology and canon law. It requires an authoritative voice, a great mind, someone whose reputation is impeccable.
It quickly becomes clear that if any one person can etch this precedent into the church’s tradition, it’s Pope Benedict. This is a man who helped shape the future trajectory of the church at Vatican II, who safeguarded the church’s teachings at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and who’s led the universal church as pope. For decades, Joseph Ratzinger has clarified for the world what’s Catholic and what isn’t. Now he’s showing us that this is Catholic too.
Clemmer is assistant director of media relations at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Vatican announced on Monday that Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien amid allegations that the cleric victimized three priests and one former priest some 30 years ago. The clergyman rejected the allegations.
The Vatican did not elaborate on O’ Brien’s alleged crimes but said his dismissal was due to his upcoming retirement age. On March 17, O’Brien turns 75 – the normal retirement age for bishops.
O’Brien also announced that he would forgo the upcoming papal conclave in the Vatican next week, an event to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
“I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” said O’Brien.
O’Brien had been the Scottish Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, serving as the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh from 1985 to 2013.
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI has changed the rules for the election of his successor before he steps down next week, saying the vote can start earlier.
On February 11, Pope said he intends to officially step down from his post at 1900 GMT on February 28 since he is no longer able to carry out his duties.
The Pope’s decision was an unprecedented move in the modern history of the Catholic Church, which has recently come under the spotlight over allegations of covering up sexual abuse of children by priests to protect pedophiles and its own reputation.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) —
The former archbishop of San Francisco, who was once the highest-ranking American in the Catholic Church, is speaking this morning about the upcoming papal election. Cardinal William J. Levada will be taking part in the process.
Cardinal Levada has known Pope Benedict XVI since the early 1980s, when the pope was known as Cardinal Ratzinger. Levada said he will meet with the pope Thursday morning for a farewell and he expects it to be very emotional for him.
When the pope was known Cardinal Ratzinger he chose Levada to replace him as the Prefect of the Congregation. Then when he was Pope Benedict XVI he elevated Levada to cardinal in 2006.
Cardinal Levada retired last year and said he never thought he would be part of a conclave. Levada said the pope’s resignation surprised him. The cardinal plans to leave for Rome tomorrow and said even if you are not Catholic he asks that you keep him in your thoughts.
“I will be the first former archbishop of San Francisco to have the privilege and solemn duty. To exercise it well I rely on the prayers of all the faithful of the church. I also ask the prayers of my brothers and sisters in other Christian communities. Jesus has assured us that the prayers we pray to god will receive a response. I ask as well the good will and prayers of the whole community with this important moment in the history of the Catholic Church,” said Levada.
The conclave is not without controversy; Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien will not participate in the papal election. There are reports that he made unwanted sexual advances towards priests in the 1980s. O’Brien denies the allegations, but said he does not want to be a distraction. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is under pressure to skip the conclave because of accusations he covered up for a pedophile priest. A source from the Catholic Church said Mahony is already on his way to Rome and won’t excuse himself.
Also the new pope will get to see the results of a potentially explosive report about leaks from the Vatican. Italian newspapers say the report detailed evidence of corruption, blackmail and a gay sex ring — all factors they point to as one reason for Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.
The Vatican denied the reports and said only two people, Benedict and his successor will be able to view the actual findings. The pope met today with the three cardinals who did the top secret investigation to say he was satisfied with it.
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pope, religion, los angeles, southern california, child abuse, sex crimes, children, europe, san francisco news, amy hollyfield
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