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I will thank God for Pope Benedict on Thursday night

Pope Benedict XVI’s inspiring courage will be his lasting legacy

By on Friday, 22 February 2013

Pope Benedict XVI  Photo: Press Association

Pope Benedict XVI Photo: Press Association

Next week many parish churches will be holding special services of thanksgiving to mark the end of the reign of Benedict XVI. In the past the end of Pope’s reign was marked by Requiem Masses and a funeral in Rome; but not this time. Now, for the first time ever, we can thank the Lord for all he has given us in the Papal reign now drawing to a close, without having to mark the death of a Pope.

So, what has Benedict given us? It is still to early to talk about what politicians call “legacy”, and Benedict is a pastor not a politician, but there are several things that he has left us which perhaps have changed the Church permanently for the better, and which we can keep in mind when we recite the Te Deum at the end of the month.

The first must be the Ordinariate. Benedict has been called the Pope of Christian Unity, and so he is. He has brought into unity a substantial stream of tradition that was diverted away from it at the Reformation. He has, in an important way, reintegrated part of the Body of Christ. The numbers in the Ordinariate are small, for the moment, but the principle it establishes is of incalculable value, and the ordinariates around the world will grow.

The second great achievement must be, though this may seem paradoxical, the negotiations with the Society of Saint Pius X. These have shown that the Pope has been devoted to rescuing the wandering sheep. These sheep in particular, unlike the Anglo-Catholics, have refused to be rescued, but chosen to stay outside the Roman fold. In so doing they consign themselves to oblivion, and they absolve both Church and Pope of the blame for their predicament. For in taking such time to negotiate with the SSPX, Pope Benedict has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Society is not Catholic, despite its protestations to the contrary. Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia.

While changing the Church’s relations with those outside, Benedict has also changed the atmosphere inside the Church too. He has placed huge and correct emphasis on the Liturgy, on the dignity of celebration, and on the importance of music. This is something that those who follow him will not be able to undo: there can be no “de-Ratzingerization”, for we have now all seen the way that the Liturgy can be celebrated, and having seen that, why should anyone want to go back to the old ways? A rising tide lifts all keels. Every parish in the English-speaking world is affected by the new translation of the Roman Missal and must be aware of the renewed interest in the ars celebrandi.

As a sign of this third great achievement, look at the status of the Extraordinary Form. It is now mainstream. It is no longer a relic, but part of the living tradition of the Church. People are now beginning to take more of an interest in liturgy – people, rather than liturgical experts. Benedict has inaugurated an era where the Church is becoming a liturgically literate Church.

Fourthly, the Pope has addressed much of his teaching towards the Old Continent, Europe. This does not mean he is not interested in the Americas or Africa or Asia; what it does mean is that he has an acute historical sense: the battle for Christianity was lost in Europe, and will be won again in Europe. The great defeat in the centuries following the French Revolution does not mean that we leave the field, but rather that this field needs to be reconquered. Just as the deChristianisation of Europe took centuries, so will its reChristianisation take many years. But for the Faith, there are no hopeless places, no no-go areas. In tackling secularisation and in refusing to accept defeat, Benedict has put new heart into the Church.

Finally, the Pope has shown us by his personal example how we are to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The enemies of the Church and the enemies of God are everywhere, even in the Vatican itself, as the Vatileaks scandal showed us. The importance of loyalty and discipline must not be underestimated; neither must the importance of courage. We must be prepared for storms to come. Benedict goes off into peaceful retirement, which is well-deserved; his successor will not be given an easy ride, but the courage of Benedict shows us the importance of holding firm, having faith, and not being intimidated.

For these reasons, and for many others, I, along with countless others, will be thanking God for Pope Benedict on Thursday night.

  • Benedict Carter

    You’re wrong on many things Alan and you are wrong on that.

  • Eleni Tsigante

    True. But after seminary the choice is given before ordination. To be ordained as a bachelor and have the possibility to rise in the church heirarchy or to marry and be ordained as a married priest and stay a priest. Ordination is simply postponed for seminary graduates who know they want to marry but have not found a wife.

    My point is that it is seen as a realistic and stabilising. Married priests are not viewed as lesser, but as a reliable and respected part of the church.

    My understanding is that marriage was also an option for Roman Catholics priests until 400 years ago.

  • Petrus

    Some of your comments in this blog post, Father, are absolutely outrageous.  You have absolutely no authority to declare that the SSPX is not Catholic.  Disgraceful.  I will tell what wasn’t Catholic – Pope John Paul II kissing the Koran and being anointed by a pagan priestess.  The SSPX rejects modern novelties, including the Novus Ordo Missae which has destroyed faith around the world.  Only a true Modernist and enemy of Catholicism could claim that clinging to the Traditional teaching of the Church is “not Catholic”.  Shame on you.

  • Petrus

    Pope Benedict XVI’s greatest failure as pope was not to follow Our Lady’s wishes and Consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  He did a lot of good, but unfortuntely his pontificate can only be viewed as a failure because he refused to follow Our Lady’s wishes.

  • mahatmacoatmabag

    Hi Phil

  • One Jab Up The Punjab

    Thank God I’m an Atheist !

  • EamonnDrohan

    ‘Roman Catholic’ was used originally as a form of derision.   We are more correctly Catholics of the Latin rite,  or Latin Catholics

  • EamonnDrohan

    It feels me with dread to imagine a future Pope returning the to the priorities and agenda of John Paul II

  • Peter

    Don’t thank God, thank the devil, personally, when you meet him.

  • scary goat

     If I were the Pope I would enforce the new guidelines on saying the NO Mass properly.  While I was waiting for that to take effect I would get working on clarifying the (few)  “disputed” VII documents in the spirit of continuity and leave no room for ambiguous interpretations, then I would have another shot a getting Bishop Fellay to sign on the dotted line.

  • Barbara

    THANK YOU POPE BENEDICT!!! Foryour courageous battle against impurity within the church herself, through the many homosexual sex abuse scandals.
    For your wonderful and brilliant intellect.
    For your wonderful books, homilies, speeches, etc etc.
    And for LIFTING UP THE MUSIC in the liturgy, to its former grandeur, lost in the past 50 years, or so.
    thank you for your wonderful HUMILITY.
    Thank you for your simplicity.
    Thank you for never ever trying to divert any attention to yourself, but instead showing all of us the way to focus on Christ.
    We will MISS YOU DEARLY, praying for you always.


  • Jonathan West

    If the recent reports are true, has he automatically excommunicated himself for  not following the church’s teachings on homosexuality?