Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me – a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord – Benedict XVI upon his election
Yesterday, I began my day in silent prayer. I went to say confession at 6:30 AM and heard Mass at 7:00 AM in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Yesterday’s feast was in fact the World Day of the Sick, and thus, the day had great meaning for me. After Mass, I said the Holy Rosary and went to the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.
Spending a few moments in front of the Blessed Sacrament is always a moving and touching experience for me. For a Catholic, the Blessed Sacrament is believed and seen to be as the Real Presence of the Lord. Although my education in the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila never really taught or emphasized this, my personal experiences with Jesuits and also in Faith made me an ardent devotee of the Blessed Sacrament.
This all happened in the span of three hours in the morning. After that, I went to Shangri-La mall to go shopping, had lunch at my tita’s temporary place in Salcedo then went to Cubao to buy ingredients for my dinner. By 6:00 PM, I was already making a delectable shrimp and mussel linguine pasta with light saffron cream sauce.
Then, I started getting text messages asking me if the news was true. I didn’t know too if what they were asking me was true. So I turned-on the television set, and headed straight to the BBC.
The Pope was resigning.
I was not simply surprised; I was terribly shocked.
I was shaken last night, and until this very moment, I am disoriented. It was as if a typhoon barged into the house, sending all things upside-down.
Pope Benedict XVI was my Pope; I loved him very much. From his weekly Wednesday talks to the lengthy homilies delivered on great Catholic feasts, his words, which are sadly unappreciated by this secular world, were not only of great interest but were very consoling and inspiring.
To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say Yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That’s not easy, but the basic Yes, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren’t simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith.
As a man very much interested in cultural heritage and the arts, Pope Benedict too was a true patron of that which is beautiful and good. His “reform of the reform” with regard to the Sacred Liturgy is a fundamental part of his Papacy, and something which must be continued. His was a proper interpretation of Vatican II where continuity, and not rupture, from Catholic Tradition is highly beneficial to the faithful. His use, for example, of beautiful and traditional vestments, speaks greatly of his dedication to the proclamation of the glory of the history and heritage, if not, the very beauty and essence of the Catholic Faith. His promotion of Latin and Gregorian Chant as well as sacred architecture reinforce the Church’s role as the chief patroness of the art and dedicated advocate of hard-work, skill and craftsmanship.
And of course, we have the Year of Faith due to him. This Pope is the Pope who allowed greater freedom for the Traditional Latin Mass to be celebrated. This is the Pope who put up, once more, the Pontifical Latin Academy to salvage the Sacred Latin. This is the Pope who wants to reconcile with Anglicans and Orthodox Christians. This is the Pope who implemented the new English translation of the Roman Missal. This was the Pope who showed that the way to receive Christ is by kneeling down and only with the tongue, the Pope who wore the proper vestments and used the proper vessels. This was a Pope who valued and greatly loved the Church.
When he went to Madrid in 2011 for the World Youth Day, he showed the world that a theologian like him still has a place in the hearts of young men and women.
“Esta es la juventud del Papa!”
This is the youth of the Pope! Millions of youths shouted this in Madrid in August 2011. And to this, atheists, secularists and others responded with spite and with anger and with cuss words. The Faith o the Church, 2000 years old, saw Madrid as the battle-ground. And the Pope was there. He was there even during the tempest that disturbed the vigil of millions in Barajas.
Hence, his resignation due to old age came to me as a shock, a terrible shock that has sent me shivers down my spine. Something is not right. Something is working behind the scenes.
I have so much pity for the Pope. The weight of his burdens have been too much these past eight years, a man who has asked to retire from his infamous position several times but whose resignation was also rejected numerous instances. From the despicable sex-abuse scandal to the Vatileaks embarrassment, Pope Benedict has been victimized by these circumstances. At 86, it is indeed difficult. And who can even forget that Christmas Mass when he was knocked off by a deranged woman? Or when females stripped during the Angelus and shouted invectives?
The traditionalist in me is actually, for lack of a precise description, angry. How can you abandon to the throne of Peter at this time of great tumult in the Catholic Church? How can you shock even the Vatican of this seemingly selfish act? Pope John Paul II stuck it through until the end. He showed the world the meaning of suffering. How could you step down and just please your own personal needs?
But the human in me says otherwise. This Pope is being responsible, this Pope is being cautious. What if his old age makes him vulnerable to the poisonous influence of some individuals? The Pope is again teaching us of this virtue he embodies, a virtue this celebrity-crazed world does not, in any way, value: humility. He is humble to accept that someone stronger, younger and more able can assume the Petrine ministry. He is humble to surrender himself to the Will of God.
It is very difficult for us to reconcile his resignation to his long-time image as “God’s Rottweiler”, as the head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Inquisition. How can someone so unrelenting, so uncompromising suddenly surrender solely because of his advanced age?
Let me end with one quote from His Holiness, which I like:
“Purity of heart is what enables us to see.”