SINCE WE ARE CONSIDERING POPES PART II

This Post first appeared on 28th March, 2013.

Statue of Saint Peter and the Keys overlooked by The Saviour
Outside Saint Peter's basilica
It is good to step back occasionally and consider the journey we have travelled in our lives. Such an exercise can be completed on several bases - the purely personal, the familial, the professional, the social, the social environment, the political environment, the technological environment. All will prove rewarding in particular ways.

But here I wish to look at the Catholic religious environment in which I have lived, and in particular to consider the six Popes who have led the Church in  the present era. I have excluded the Venerable Pope Pius XII from this assessment for reasons  I will set out  below.  I hope you will follow me in this exercise, which I believe might be helpful in considering how we should approach the assessment of the present newly- begun Pontificate.

This will then, be a very personal view of those Pontificates I have lived through.

In recent days, in the Post " God and Three Popes": http://vexilla-regis.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/god-and-3-popes.html ,we considered the last three Popes, and the reasons why they could be so different one from another, yet very effective and pleasing to God and greatly loved by the faithful .But our purpose here, is to look at the historic " picture" of the last 55 years , and try to perceive the working out of God's plan for the Church through His last six Vicars.

Venerable Pope Pius XII Wearing the Triple Tiara abandoned by Pope Paul VI

The Pian Background

When I was born and Baptised, Pope Pius XII had already been reigning for 13 Months and 7 Days. When His Holiness died on 9th October,1958 , I was 18 1/2 years of age precisely to the day, and it was 17 Months and 1 Day since I had left St. Columba's Minor Seminary at Springwood.

His passing was a shock - he had been one of the " Givens" of my life, taken absolutely as a fixed part of my world. His presence was revered, austere,noble and beloved, not only by Catholics , but around the world. Now, looking back to that time 55 years ago, it is very clear  that his death marked the end of an era in Church History - an era that had run from the election of Giovanni Maria Mastai- Ferretti as Pope Pius IX on 16th June, 1846 until that day in 1958. Just as the closing of World War II closed a political , and, in reality a social era, the death of Pope Pius XII closed an ecclesiastical era. As I considered then the novel idea of a Papal Election , I am sure that doubt about what would happen obscured from my mind any understanding of how historic the event was.

Older and wiser heads no doubt saw the significance of the event as the closing of one era and the opening of another, but , in the full vigour and pre-occupation of youth , I did not.

He died at  a time when I knew that I was certainly living in the very best of all times - " modern times!" - optimism abounded. We had won the great Crusade of World War II against Evil.  Post -War recovery was bounding ahead. We had even won the Korean War against the Communists. Life was good, and getting better, and everyone knew it.And for a young man, the remote threat of nuclear war with those pesky Russians seemed something so surreal that it was not worth really worrying about.

Blessed Pope  John XXIII


BLESSED POPE JOHN XXIII

No-one saw what was coming when Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, then Patriarch of Venice, was elected on 28th October, 1958 only 19 days after the death of his revered predecessor.He took the name John XXIII."Everyone" believed he was an "interim" Pope - elected at age 77 Yrs. And it seems clear that the mind of the Cardinal Electors must have been just that. All except one - the man himself! For he seemed totally free of any such inhibiting thought.

By the Apostolic Constitution " Humanae Salutis" dated 25th December, 1961 Pope John XXIII  summoned the Second Vatican Council. The action surprised everyone, shocked and horrified those familiar with the history of Ecumenical Councils and puzzled many.For, riding the crest of the wave of confidence that buoyed the whole world in the wake of World War II's success in defeating rampant evil, the Church was confident and very highly active .Nor was there any publicly notorious heresy to be confronted.No, this was intended to be a " pastoral Council" to provide "aggiornamento" a "bringing up-to-date" of the Church - to address " modern times"- this was a novelty in Church history.

The Council lasted from from 1962 until 1965 sitting in several sessions.There is no doubt , considering the writings of Pope John XXIII, that he had no better idea than anyone else of the maelstrom of disasters that would beset the Church in the wake of the Council. Going into the Council, and, from what we can read, in the course of the Council, and coming away from the Council, there was a great sense of optimism on the part of many, verging almost on hubris.Many of the Council Fathers have attested to this.

Pope John XXIII was immensely popular, even outside the Church he gained the name of " good Pope John" physically his assets were few- he was plump and had a " face that only a mother could love", yet his very goodness, grace, geniality and openness caused universal approval, and, indeed affection.When he died his Council was still incomplete.He died on 3rd June, 1963 aged 81yrs.

POPE PAUL VI  LATE IN HIS LIFE,WEIGHED DOWN BY TROUBLES
VENERABLE POPE PAUL VI

It seems that the Cardinals' "experiment" with an interim Pope - if they really did think that way - had  alarmed them. Indeed the Council was proving to be seemingly unending, and it was going to take an experienced hand to bring it in for a safe landing. They had their man it seemed - Giovanni Battista Montini Archbishop of the huge Milan Diocese and former joint Secretary of State to Pope Pius XII until moved to Milan by John XXIII.

Pope Paul VI has had in popular history, the exact reverse of the experience of Pope John XXIII : he has been condemned as an indecisive " Hamlet" , reviled by dissidents for the Encyclical Humanae Vitae which defended Human Life from conception to natural death and confirmed the Church's traditional condemnation of contraception and abortion. He was condemned by Liturgical conservatives for his approval of the Novus Ordo and abandonment of the Traditional Latin Mass. He was seen as having been duped by Archbishop Bugnini in this matter,until Pope Paul at last saw him for what he was, dismissed him and sent him in the Diplomatic Service to Iran.

A kind and gentle man according to Cardinal Noe who worked closely with him, Pope Paul was greatly saddened by the liturgical abuse which quickly became common with the new liturgy , and this was the cause of his famous " smoke of Satan" speech in 1972.This was not the only cross he had to bear. The numbers of Priests and Religious walking away from their vocations soared into the tens of thousands whilst the number of vocations shrank from the previous flood to a mere trickle.The poisonous co-operation of quack psychology and the false 
"spirit of the Council"  worked with diabolical efficiency.Those infected by that spirit, and by the undoubtedly diabolical spirit loose in the secular world since 1968 on the streets of Paris and then throughout Europe, had also talked up the possibility of the Church allowing artificial contraception.  Pope Paul VI acted decisively with the Encyclical " Humanae Vitae" in July,1968 confirming that there could never be a change in this moral teaching. " Humanae Vitae" became the litmus test for fidelity to the Church Christ had established. There can be no doubt that the Encyclical challenged many Catholics and many failed the test - permanently,seduced by the  " sexual liberation" made available by the contraceptive pill .The " love and peace" " flower power" generation of the "sick, sick sixties"( as a pop song was to call them) obsessed by the notion of sex separated from conception, quickly slid off into homosexuality and drugs, or as the phrase went " whatever turns you on baby!". 

It is little known to-day, that in his time as Archbishop of Milan , Montini had been a very active progressive in putting in place massive programmes which to-day we would term the New Evangelisation ,in his huge Archdiocese in many innovative ways, and involving hundreds of Priests and Bishops and laity in preaching and teaching in churches, factories and public places.

The decimation of the Church under his Pontificate, came as a very bitter blow to him.He had brought the Second Vatican Council to an end in 1965.He died on 6th August, 1978.This brief summary does not do justice to his impressive body of teaching, but in a way, reflects the manner in which his work was obscured by the rising tide of woe.



Pope John Paul I and Cardinal Wojtyla
POPE JOHN PAUL I

Twenty days later, Cardinal Albino Luciani was elected Pope and took the name John Paul  . The novelty of the name was striking, the intention self - evident. The former Patriarch of Venice, since his appointment by Pope Paul VI in early 1970,  hoped to recover the tranquil times and happy memories of John XXIII's Pontificate, and to own the Teachings and reforms of Paul VI's Pontificate. Given the devastating division and implosion of the preceding 13 years, it was an admirable , though ambitious aspiration.

He seemed to all who knew him and saw him, to be a very good, kind and holy man. His warm smile , never far away, instantly won hearts. But alas, it seems a personal practical omission on his part was to prove fatal. On leaving Venice for the Conclave , he had left his heart medication behind. He had not sent for it.Then he was elected Pope and so overwhelmed by events that the omission was not made good. After only 33 days as Pope, he was found dead  early in the morning of 28 September, 1978. 

Reports from the time speak of the great relief of the Cardinals when he was elected, that the deeply divided conservative vs "progressive" groups of the Italian Cardinals were able to agree on someone. But absolute control of the Conclaves was slipping from their grasp more and more as the College of Cardinals had steadily been internationalised.

The crisis caused by the sudden death of John Paul I ( it appears that he chose to be so styled - which was not a necessary form until there was a John Paul II ... it seems an almost prophetic impulse) immediately threw the Italian cardinals back to their impasse. Their inability to agree on one of their own apparently forced them to look to " the man from a far country" Cardinal Karol Wojtyla Archbishop of Krakow , Poland.



BLESSED POPE JOHN PAUL II
AS WE KNEW HIM BEST STRONG ,CONFIDENT FAITH-FILLED
Blessed Pope John Paul II

"God works in marvellous ways his wonders to perform."

The stage had been set : backdrop - devastation, depression , anxiety, desertion, noises off stage : dissent, derision, discord, cast : apprehensive,  attentive, prayerful , Leading Man : 58 yrs old, tried by the fire of Nazi occupation of his homeland, then Communist control of his country and persecution of the Church, he had been one of the Council Fathers - knew all the issues and the cast of characters. More importantly, the Holy Spirit had chosen in him a man of steely Faith, brilliant intellect,a strong outgoing personality and a flair for the theatrical and a profound love of Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother.

The throngs in Piazza S. Pietro had been ecstatic when he was first introduced to them - the Piazza had been packed - everyone was aware how difficult the situation was, and this totally surprising choice of a man " from a far country"..." This Slav" as he was to say, was a sensation. That sensation continued for 25 years.

Poor Pope Paul VI's Pontificate had been, for him and for the Church one long Via Dolorosa, steeped in trial and stress and disaster with the one one great triumph - " Humanae Vitae"  itself drawing down on him still greater odium.

The long, long Pontificate of Pope John Paul II was to be no less lived out under attack - even two attempted Assassinations - but the new Holy Father moved out and adopted an outgoing stance announcing from the time of his installation " Be Not Afraid ! " the marvellous exhortation of Our Divine Lord, and the greeting of Angels.

By contrast with previous Pontificates the pace he set was a whirlwind of powerful teaching documents, Apostolic Voyages around the Globe and manifold initiatives of a pastoral nature. The World had seen Pope Paul VI begin international Apostolic Voyages, but this , this was almost Blitzkrieg! The new Holy Father criss-crossed Europe, Africa , the Americas, Asia and , at the end of the Earth, Oceania. The modern Papacy had been brought to vibrant life. Among the lasting initiatives he put in hand were the World Youth Days which attracted crowds often in the millions and have gone on to be spectacular successes - especially in fostering vocations.

John Paul II's Documents constitute a mighty body of work, refuting error, propounding truth, correcting abuses. In figurative terms we might say that he came to the command of the Barque of Saint Peter and found it with its sails torn to shreds and drifting toward rocks with a bewildered and dispirited crew. With his infectious Faith in Christ, he quickly strengthened the brethren, repaired the sails and brought the Barque around, heading her out into the deep once more in search of a catch.

His Grace filled Pontificate has provided the substance of numerous books and is too demanding a subject to deal with here. It was a remarkable time . He did make one or two silly mistakes, but when one is doing so very much , that is always possible. As the long and glorious years passed, it became increasingly evident that Blessed Pope John Paul II was suffering from rapidly advancing Parkinson's Disease. It was a great cross for a once vigorous and active man to suffer this slow and humiliating death process - yet he fought manfully, heroically against it until the very end. He made of it an opportunity to teach, as we saw and suffered with him in Christ's service.His funeral caused a crowd estimated at 5,000,000 to gather in Rome centred on Saint Peter's Basilica.The Eternal City, and the world, had never seen the like.

OUR BELOVED POPE BENEDICT XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

The man who presided at the Funeral Mass of Blessed Pope John Paul II was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger whose devotion to, and affection for, the late Pope were patently obvious. He spoke brilliantly, inspiringly. One Cardinal , speaking eight years later, was to say that at the Conclave that followed, the task that faced the Cardinals was simple because by virtue of holiness, intellect and experience, Ratzinger was the only one who was ten times the superior of any of the other Cardinals.And so Pope Benedict XVI was elected on 19th April, 2005.


Perhaps no person elected to the Papacy in all of history was already so well known to so many people as to his true personality, his thoughts and beliefs and his sound doctrine. For in his time as a University Professor and more particularly in the 25 years he had spent as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had a prodigious output of books from the completely scholarly to the more popular - though still carefully worded - journalistic interviews recorded in book form(Starting with the Ratzinger Report) . He became for those dedicated to resistance to the false " spirit of the Council" dissidents, a champion of orthodoxy. His "personality" was also widely "known" in those dissident circles under the deceitful shadows of nicknames such as " God's Rottweiler" and the "Panzer Kardinal" . His defenders and admirers smilingly gave the lie to these deceits by adopting the Bumper Sticker Title - "I Love my German Shepherd".

The psychological cost to this gentle soul, this quintessential Bavarian gentleman must have been great, but he soon surprised everyone by achieving a remarkably strong reception from the Catholic faithful in very large numbers wherever he went. And, as we have previously pointed out, his Wednesday Angelus Address crowds far exceeded those of the immensely popular Blessed John Paul II.

He continued the pattern of extensive international Apostolic Voyages several of which stand out, including that to the United States, that to Scotland and England and that to World Youth Day in Sydney .These were brilliant successes, not just in crowds and quality of reception - but in actual teaching achievements. In the United States, one hardened commentator praised the Holy Father, saying that he had given the United States "the vocabulary to address its problems and future". In Scotland and England he politely but firmly confronted 500 years of nationalist anti-Catholic prejudice - even being welcomed formally in Westminster Hall where, he noted the great Saint Thomas More had been condemned to death for his defence of the Faith. And in the stolen Westminster Abbey he was to be received by the then Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Benedict chose to wear the Stole of Pope Leo XIII who,  in " Apostolicae Curiae", had condemned Anglican "Orders" as forever "null and absolutely void".Pope Leo had also made the convert John Henry Newman a Cardinal. Pope Benedict  beatified John Henry Newman whilst he was in the U.K. The resounding success of World Youth Day in Sydney and the Holy Father's part in inspiring the hundreds of thousands of young people was spectacular.

Pope Benedict - as in the case of the Leonine Stole -often taught by example - requiring that those to whom he distributed Holy Communion should be kneeling and receive on the tongue.And the greater solemnity with which Papal liturgies were celebrated showed forth his conviction that all glory praise and honour were due to God, that the Liturgy is about us honoring Him rather than us celebrating ourselves.And in using such things as historic vestments and a Pastoral Cross, he emphasised the hermeneutic of continuity.Not a "New" post-Conciliar Church, but the one true Church of all the Ages.

The two most remarkable actions of Pope Benedict were undoubtedly the issuing of Summorum Pontificum on 7th July , 2007 which enabled, in effect any Priest to celebrate the pre Novus Ordo Mass without the need for Episcopal authorisation.The growth in its celebration has been steady and consistent and its impact, especially among the young , has been remarkable. In another move, with the Motu Proprio "Anglicanorum Coetibus" he provided for the erection of Ordinariates to meet the needs of thousands of former Anglicans and hundreds of their Clergy including Bishops, seeking admission into the Catholic Church and in the case of the Clergy seeking to be Ordained Priests and in some cases Bishops.The impact of this measure is continuing to grow.

Earning him the title " The Pope of Christian Unity", Pope Benedict also reached out keenly to the Lefebvrist Society Of Saint Pius X. But, despite his best endeavours, the hard line elements of that Society remained stiff-necked and and distant from the Church, despite Pope Benedict's conciliatory lifting the excommunications on their 4 Bishops.

Pope Benedict also developed growing ties with the Orthodox Churches with good success, except in the case of the Patriarchate of Moscow where the " warming" was only slight.

A significant achievement was the improvement in the quality of Episcopal appointments , especially after Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal Marc Ouellet as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Earlier in his Pontificate , Pope Benedict had to weather the storm surrounding the scandal of treatment of cases involving the sexual abuse of children .Most of these cases had occurred during the immediate post - Conciliar period 40 to 45 years ago. The fashionable "no win no fee" lawyers greatly encouraged the victims and some false "victims" and the anti-Church mainstream media made sure that a lurid sensation was created over each case. The fact that, at their worst, the number of these cases only reached the levels in the general community and in other Churches, and is now back down to far below those levels - as it should be - has never seen the light of mainstream media spotlights. For such a gentlemanly, and devout soul as Benedict it was a hard cross to bear.

And in the latter days of the Pontificate there broke out the so-called " Vatileaks" affair,. Precisely what it was all about we do not know. And the always lurid speculations of the Italian Press are of no assistance. Time will tell.

THE CATHEDRA OF THE BISHOP OF ROME
THE SEDE - VACANTE
THE BASILICA OF SAINT JOHN THE LATERAN
The greatest surprise of Pope Benedict's Pontificate must be said to be his resignation. Announced to a Consistory of Cardinals in Latin without any prior indication, this historic event - the first such in 600 years - truly shocked the world. But, as the weeks go by we find ourselves shocked by the deterioration in Pope Benedict's condition in the rare glimpses we get of him. This was particularly evident in the low key TV coverage of the visit paid to him by Pope Francis at Castel Gandolfo. He appeared very much reduced, shuffling along with the aid of a walking stick, making very limited gestures, but still retaining that delightful, gentle smile. Pope Francis' solicitude for him and demonstrated gentle kindness was very heart-warming.

POPE FRANCIS
THE POPE OF "FIRSTS"
POPE FRANCIS

The Conclave of 2013 was very different from that of 2005. Firstly there was no deceased Pontiff to mourn. Secondly there was no obvious candidate - though in more ordinary circumstances, many would no doubt have expected Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan to be elected. But these were not ordinary circumstances, There was no-one to mourn, the atmosphere of unresolved scandal and the idea that it involved some faction in the Curia, seems to have made it difficult for the Italians to vote in one of their own. 

There had been abroad a widespread sentiment that it would be a good thing if the new Pope came from somewhere other than Europe. The principle pools of candidates would then be the Latins especially those from Latin America and the Africans, or the Asians. In the case of Africa, there were several potential candidates, and in Asia a lesser number. But Latin America offered several advantages for consideration : around 50% of the world's 1.2 Billion Catholics live in Latin America, there were a number of very well known Cardinals considered Papabile,and some were prominent. 

At the top of the list of those, was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina.He was renowned for his personal holiness and for his dedication to pastoral concerns, and the needs of the poor.It was widely believed that in the 2005 Conclave he had been adopted as a candidate by a bloc of Cardinal Electors endeavouring to stop the ascendancy of Cardinal Ratzinger in the voting, without his consent or agreement. The effort failed obviously. But memory of his showing in the voting evidently remained. He was, in that sense, an easy choice to make - holy, pastorally concerned and devoted to the poor - even for the non- conservatives he must have seemed a good choice. Had they known more about his record of firm orthodoxy, they might have had second thoughts.

THE PHOTO THE MEDIA DON'T USE
THE THEN CARDINAL BERGOGLIO CELEBRATING MASS IN THE CHURCH OF SAINT LAWRENCE OUTSIDE THE WALLS ONLY DAYS BEFORE HIS ELECTION WEARING A ROMAN CHASUBLE.


UBI PETRUS, IBI ECCLESIA " Where Peter is, there is the Church."

So here we are. To be " here" is one thing. But even Saint Peter, the first Pope, out on the Via Appia Antica ( the Ancient Appian Way) asked Our Lord " Quo Vadis Domine?" ("Where are you going O Lord? ") .The question is no less valid and important to-day.And discernment of the answer will be the continuing task of Pope Francis. 

Perhaps our reflection on the last 55 years of the Church's journey through time might help us to consider what lies ahead.

At the end of the Pian era, the Church seemed to the world, to have reached the very zenith of her achievements.. This was truly remarkable for at the beginning of that era, in the Pontificate of Pio Nono - Blessed Pope Pius IX , the Church had appeared to be at the nadir of her standing in the world.

Twice the Pope had been driven out of the City and he had finally declared himself a "Prisoner in the Vatican"when the Papal States were stolen by military force. And this had come after decades of humiliation and persecution during and after the French Revolutions and in the notorious French imprisonment of Pope Pius VI and the Napoleonic imprisonment of Pope Pius VII. Despite the subsequent "Kulturkampf" attacks on the Church by Bismarck in Prussia, and through all these troubled times, there was an immense re-growth and flowering of spirituality and a series of miraculous and wholly authentic Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes , La Salette,Rue de Bac in Paris and lastly at Fatima in Portugal.

Quite independently there was a wider re-generation in Catholic life through the preaching of Pere Lacordaire, the pastoral activity of the Cure' of Ars, and  the lives of, and the Religious Orders founded by, Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Saint Marcellin Champagnat and others. This 19th Century glorious flowering had reached full bloom by the 20th Century. It was a wonderful time to be a Catholic. 

Sure, at the beginning of the 20th Century the Church was still suffering civil persecution in a number of places - ranging from socially as in England to politically as in Mexico.But the English prejudice was worn down by  by the experience of World War I  and the Mexican persecution was only overcome very gradually. But the general world image of the Catholic Church continued to strengthen and grow through the first half of the twentieth Century.By the time of the Second World War and through the Pontificate of Pope Pius XII it continued to soar.. Even to extremes of worldly silliness, when an American Business Management organisation rated the Catholic Church as the world' best organised "corporation"!

So, we had come in that Pian era from disaster piled upon disaster to fully-fledged "success" in 132 years.

POPE SAINT PIUS X
That very "success" seemed to be about to be " crowned" by the Second Vatican Council - the Council few people wanted apart from Pope John XXIII and some folk who were the heirs of the " Modernists" condemned by Saint Pope Pius X in "Lamentabili Sane Exitu"("A Lamentable Departure Indeed") and the following great Encyclical " Pascendi Dominici Gregis" ( "Feeding the Lord's Flock") which condemned Modernism as "the synthesis of all heresies". Despite the heights upon which it was launched, and the confidence with which it was approached, the Council left in its wake all too obviously "the synthesis of all heresies" . As poor Pope Paul VI was to find, the Council's wake was littered with the flotsam and jetsam of heresy, division, disaffection, desertion, the widespread loss of the sense of the sacred and a taste in some, for turning the Church of Christ into a " philanthropic NGO" to use the words of Pope Francis' condemnation of the error.

What had gone wrong? Had God abandoned His Church? NEVER! We know that! But what had gone wrong?

It is clear that things had been going so well, that many in the Church had " lowered their guard", had not thought that the Father of Lies could strike and strike hard when the Church was " at the top of her game". 

So the very Council that boldly had set out to bring the Church "up-to-date" did not bring itself up-to-date first. Whilst planning to look out and " take note of the signs of the times" - the Council ignored them as far as its own proceedings were concerned. Convinced that as in times past, the world would wait for the Council to publish its documents to find out what the Council taught, it proceeded, where it own affairs were concerned to look inward. 

But the heirs of the Modernists were shrewd enough to realise that the Mainstream Media (a phrase that then was not in use) were eager for, in fact desperate for, a story each day  of this historic great show - the Second Vatican Council -  with all its grandly attired participants. That was all it was to them. The Father of Lies was at work.

 And so it came to pass in those days that the heirs of the Modernists became " Spin Doctors" providing the ignorant but sensation seeking Media with what they wanted to hear - novelty. Coming from northern Europe these latter day Modernists led the thirsting Media to believe and spread the word that the Council would change everything from Contraception to Celibacy to abandonment of Latin,to accepting homosexuality etc, etc. You name it - it was coming : the Council was changing everything. The average Catholic was bewildered by what they read in the Press .Yet for the three years the Council sat, this unrelenting Media exercise continued with little concerted effective response.

Even when Council documents progressively became available, as for example, the very first -  "Sacrosanctum Concilium" on the Sacred Liturgy which required the retention of Latin with minimal Vernacular for such purposes as Readings, and required pride of place for Gregorian Chant, they were largely ignored or treated as if they said what the earlier false stories had said. The Propaganda battle was won by the Modernists who began to speak NOT about the inconvenient Council documents, no, but rather about the false " spirit of the Council".

And so it went for the ten years from the end of the Council until the election of Pope John Paul II when effective countermeasures began to come into play. We have seen above that the Cardinals in Conclave were at first not disposed to elect him for their own collegial reasons. But their choice having been taken to God, they were left with little alternative but to elect " this Slav".

He labored heroically as we have seen, and gradually the Barque of Peter began to answer her helm and to come back on course in the midst of the storm. By the time he too was taken to God 25 years later, things were much improved and the election of Pope Benedict VI ensured that the remaining corrective measures necessary were put in place. And, building on the teaching work of Blessed Pope John Paul II , he began a series of consistent and integrated catecheses on such subjects as the Apostles, the Fathers of the Church and the Saints and to teach specifically against the " tyranny of Relativism" and the " Hermeneutic of Rupture" which was the essence of the Modernists' argument. They wanted a New Church  : the Council had, for them, represented a break from the Church before its time. NOT SO pointed out Pope Benedict . The Church founded by Christ is one in the present time and in all time since Christ.

POPE FRANCIS MEETS FRAIL POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT AT CASTEL GANDOLFO
Benedict was very effective in putting the capping stone on Blessed Pope John Paul II's work. But the Father of Lies was not going quietly. Having caused, in the immediate wake of the Council an increase in child sexual abuse among clergy and religious, such that it rose to the same level as in the general population and other institutions , he now incited the publicising of these scandalous matters which, in the manner of the society of the times they were committed, had been hushed up to avoid scandal. Now the same Media the Father of Lies used to spread the false " Council of the Media" decided to adopt the cause of " victim's groups" to beat the Church around the head . The campaign was scurrilous and run relentlessly, re-hashing the cases over and over to the extent that the man in the street was brain-washed into thinking every allegation had to be " fact". Priest and pedophile were in the public "mind" synonymous. 

No matter that for the last 35 years the statistics had receded to the norm far below the level of the general population and other institutions. And no matter that at its worst it had been no worse than in those same groups.

Then there broke out matters that suggested dissension within the Curia and this became a matter widely and wildly canvassed in the always outlandish Italian press.

The rapidly ailing health of Pope Benedict XVI led him to abdicate, to avoid the type of organisational paralysis he had observed in the declining period of Blessed Pope John Paul II's terrible illness. Especially in the current situation.

The Church around the world is much recovered from the "wake of the Council" rubble. She is growing rapidly in Asia and in Africa.And in Oceania and the Americas there is a strong resurgence of Orthodox Catholicism , and the barren wastes of dissidence have been dying back to their roots. Europe remains sick , though again there, orthodox Catholicism flourishes and is spreading. The growth in vocations globally is now starting to outpace the reduction in numbers due to deaths for the first time since the Council.


SUMMING IT UP

Our Lord is of course always in the Barque, and aware , even when he appears to be sleeping. But we have to do our part. The truth remains as Saint Paul and Saint Peter told it : we are battling continually against Principalities and Powers and, the Devil indeed "goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." Nothing should ever lead us to relax or suppose otherwise, not even the greatest historic success, or the most sublime confidence in our mastery of a situation.

The results of failure can be catastrophic as we have seen. And the labours necessary to recover the situation could have been spent on further spreading the Good News.

THE WAY AHEAD

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
  Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
  Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet: I do not ask to see  
The distant scene,—one step enough for me.
 Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman : " Pillar of the Cloud"


Looking back over the last 55 years Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's advice seems appropriate for the present situation, as it is for most.God has sent us a new Vicar of Christ, who appears to surprise many based on what they read in the Media - but is it all true or largely " spin"? Or as true as it seems?


Just as we were told when he chose the open Jeep to ride around the Piazza that it was in contrast with Pope Benedict.But Pope Benedict had on occasion done the same. When we were told that he rode in a Mini- Bus unlike Pope Benedict's limousine - yet we were not told that he took the limousine on later occasions. etc.etc.
POPE FRANCIS - " STRENGTHEN THE BRETHREN"
                    
So let us not try to "see the distant scene" but stay with the Holy Father and also cherish the memory and work of his beloved predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict.

Our Lord is in the Barque and ever alert - but He expects us to do our part - the new Evangelisation is everyone's responsibility.  

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