Friday, November 18, 2011

"More Personal, More Emotive": In Benin, Bienvenue Benoit

As crowd reactions to a PopeTrip's start go, the sound of today's B16 touchdown in Benin is pretty tough to top:

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On a more serious note, as laid out here earlier, the figure of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin loomed large on the pontiff's mind today, both en route and on reaching his great friend's native soil.

Three days after a statue of the first African to preside over the College of Cardinals was unveiled in a Cotonou square that now bears his name, Benedict said the following at the usual in-flight presser aboard the Volo Papale (Papal Plane)...
I saw Cardinal Gantin for the first time at my ordination as Archbishop of Munich in 1976 [sic -- it was 1977]. He had come because one of his former students was a disciple of mine. That had been the beginning of a friendship between us, without our having met. On that important day of my episcopal ordination, it was beautiful for me to meet this young African bishop full of faith, full of joy and courage. Then, we worked together a great deal, above all when he was the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and then in the College of Cardinals. I always marveled at his deep and practical intelligence, his sense of discernment, to not trip over beautiful ideological phrases but to grasp what’s essential and what doesn’t make sense. He also had a true sense of humor which was very beautiful. Above all, he was a man of deep faith and prayer. All this made Cardinal Gantin not just a friend, but an example. He was a great African Catholic bishop, and I’m truly happy now that I’m able to pray at his tomb and to feel his closeness, his great faith, which will always make him an example for me and a friend.
...and again in his formal Arrival Speech:
There exists a third reason [I have come here] which is more personal and more emotive. I have long held in high esteem a son of this country, His Eminence Cardinal Bernardin Gantin. For many years, we both worked, each according to his proper competence, labouring in the same vineyard. We both happily assisted my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, in the exercise of his Petrine ministry. We had many occasions to meet, to engage in profound discussions and to pray together. Cardinal Gantin won the respect and the affection of many. So it seemed right that I should come to his country of origin, to pray before his tomb, and to thank Benin for having given the Church such a distinguished son.
Suffice it to say, it's not often that a Pope does that... but in this case, clearly, not without reason.

Benedict is scheduled to visit Gantin's tomb at St Gall Seminary in Ouidah just after 11am local time tomorrow.