Friday, January 27, 2006

B16: "A Service to Joy"

My Tablet colleague, the eminent Robert Mickens in Rome, has the lead piece in the current St. Anthony Messenger -- a look at the new pontificate, and the man who has already remade the papacy in his own image.

Some snips:

Several months after his election, we have all seen the emergence of a Benedict XVI who has defied the expectations—and fears—of even the most astute observers on both sides of the current Church division. The new pope has shown a much more attractive and gracious persona than his detractors ascribed to him when he was CDF head. In the past several months, the world has slowly begun to warm up to a Joseph Ratzinger who presents an authentic and joyful gentleness.

Despite even benign temptations, it is unfair to judge the new pope by his past. “He’s no longer specialized,” said Belgium’s Cardinal Godfried Danneels at the end of the conclave. “He now has to be pastor of everyone and everything.” As one veteran Vatican watcher commented sagely, “There’s a good reason why popes change their names.”....

In the first weeks of his pontificate, and after, Pope Benedict XVI smiled broadly and spoke often of the “joy of being a believer in Christ.” From the very start, he demonstrated a sort of shy confidence and serene joy that contrasted (or some might say complemented) the assertiveness of his predecessor. Benedict XVI’s style and manner have been strikingly similar to that of the delicate and erudite Paul VI, a lover of the fine arts and classical music, than to the style of the robust and charismatic John Paul II, who was sometimes called “God’s Athlete.”

“And now, at this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity. How will I be able to do it?” he asked on April 24 at his installation Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Many people initially believed that, by electing the Vatican’s long-standing “enforcer of the faith,” the cardinals had chosen a man with fixed notions who would swiftly carry out a rigorous program of restoration.

But Pope Benedict corrected them: “My real program of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by him, so that he himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history.”

Several days later when he took possession of his cathedral, St. John Lateran, he said, “The pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word.”

For his papal coat of arms, Pope Benedict replaced the tiara with a simple bishop’s miter. Just as the shortlived Pope John Paul I chose not to have a papal coronation, now Benedict XVI further distanced the papacy from any monarchical claims by removing this vestige of imperial power.

Grazie Dio.... Check it out.