GOD AND 3 POPES
|THE CREATOR AND THE CREATED|
As Catholics we know that God in the Person of Jesus Christ established His Church as His project to bring to completion the salvation of the World, using the Divine gifts of the Seven Sacraments with which Jesus Christ had endowed her.And that He appointed Saint Peter and his Successors , as His Vicars on Earth and armed them with the Keys of the Kingdom and the Power to Bind and Loose,and the responsibility to strengthen the brethren, ensuring the proper governance of His Church.
The Vicar of Christ on Earth - the Bishop of Rome , the Pope thus holds an awesome office.
In God perfection symphonically harmonises every good, one might say - but this is inadequate because God IS perfection He is not made up of anything - He IS. Quite beyond our words to really describe. When Moses asks God for His Name , we see in Exodus 3:14 the reply : " I Am Who I Am". In other words : " I am no creature with equals, to need a name to distinguish Me - I simply AM."
But what of His Vicars on Earth? They are of course simply men, with all their mortal frailties, but aided by the Holy Spirit and the promise of Jesus Christ to be with His Church always until the end of Time. It follows that lacking Perfection , and being mortal men, these Vicars of Christ on Earth cannot at once project all the characteristics of the God they serve. No, they struggle within the bounds of time and their finite powers to do the best they can with the human capabilities they have as individuals, co-operating with Divine Grace.
So each one brings to the sacred office his own powers , abilities, experience and inclinations whilst co-operating with that Divine Grace. And each leaves behind him the body of teachings he has provided under Divine guidance, to enrich the Church throughout the ages , and the results of whatever he has been able to achieve whilst alive.It follows that not every Pope will, or could or should necessarily be, like his predecessor or his successor.
If we consider the last three Popes elected, we see all this well demonstrated:
|BL. POPE JOHN PAUL II AND CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER|
In Blessed John Paul II we had a man of extraordinary brilliance in intellect, sanctity, personality, theatrical tendency. energy and spirit.Tried in the fires of Nazi oppression and Communist persecution he had been a Father of the Second Vatican Council and knew all that had gone on during and after it. He proved to be a great Teacher and Evangeliser to the whole world.He was robust and outgoing- confident in God and in himself. He was not interested in detailed hands on administration and trusted those to whom he delegated powers. He was , to use his own words from one occasion " generous" in dealing with some problems.
|POPE BENEDICT XVI|
He had to endure the ordeal of Press vilification of the Church in Sexual Abuse cases which was a terrible ordeal, especially for such a gentle soul.
And in the latter days of his Pontificate he had to endure the so-called Vatileaks scandal which seems to have been associated in some way with tensions within the Curia. We may not know the full truth of the matter for a generation, or we may. At present we do not.Pope Benedict's gentlemanly, humble personality did not perhaps always make him the type of administrative leader the times called for.His 6 years of tolerance of the Australian Bishop Morris problem is an example.
|POPE FRANCIS ABLY ASSISTED BY SYDNEY DEACON NICHOLAS RYNNE|
UNDER THE CAREFUL EYE OF MONS. GUIDO MARINI
The Pope of many firsts : Pope Francis. The litany of firsts is becoming tedious already : Francis, Jesuit, South American( though both parents are Italian born), non-European for hundreds of years, Pope to be elected whilst his predecessor is alive in 600 years etc, etc.He is an instant media sensation and " good copy" with his obvious and operating humility, and simplicity.His fondness for surprising gestures on one occasion riding in a mini-bus, going to pay his own accommodation bill , deciding to say the Holy Thursday Mass in a youth Prison all provide fodder for the cameras. His addresses are good solid pastoral exhortations.The humble " gestures" are not mere media stunts but serious pastoral "demonstrations". We will have to await more substantial teaching documents, and also the hard administrative decisions that have to be made. The quality of the Episcopal appointments he makes will be critical - here in Australia alone the queue for decision is overly long . He is far from physically perfect : suffering the loss of one lung since his teenage years and visibly walking with some difficulty/unevenness.His obvious virtues shine, and at the same time we are told he can be a tough administrator and decision maker.
So there we have it - each of the last three Popes has been quite different , each has been able to expand upon certain aspects of the Catholic Faith and to meet the challenges they confronted /confront. But in their diversity, they have each served Christ with great fidelity and strengthened the brethren effectively using their God-given talents and Graces to the full. We thank God for them, and for their remarkable sanctity - a characteristic which is not an inevitable in holders of that sacred office.