Pax Tecum

I remember the day, not so long ago, in April 2005, when Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger, Cardinal of Munich and Freising and Dean of the College of Cardinals, was elected Pope. The first German Pope in almost 500 years!

So he offended Muslims when he cited a Byzantine emperor saying that Islam brought things “evil and inhuman.” (For which he later apologized.)

So he was insensitive to Jews by lifting the excommunication of four schismatic bishops, one of whom being an outspoken historical revisionist.

So he failed in cracking the whip on pedophile priests.

He is German, and he is Pope. I don’t care if you’re catholic, or protestant, or agnostic, or pastafarianist. If you’re German, that’s as cool as it gets. Benedict’s election gave us Germans a boost in national pride that we had been sorely lacking since our darkest chapter in history 70 years ago.

Then 78 year old Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope on April 19, 2005 after four rounds of balloting in 24 hours, one of the fastest elections in a century. Benedict XVI, as he was henceforth known, albeit being frontrunner in the race to succeed the immensely popular Pope John Paul II, was none too thrilled to actually have been elected. He had hoped to retire and spend his last years living quietly and peacefully. After his election, during an audience with German pilgrims, he recalled: “At a certain point, I prayed to God, ‘Please don’t do this to me. Evidently, this time he didn’t listen to me.”

(c) M.Mazur/www.thepapalvis

While Benedict’s papacy was marred with controversy, it came as a shock and surprise to the world when he announced his retirement on February 11, 2013, citing his deteriorating strength as a reason for his resignation in a statement that read: “…my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” With his resignation (the first time a Pope has resigned in almost 600 years) Benedict is setting a precedent for his successors and the Vatican.

Last Thursday, February 28th, 2013, Benedict XVI’s papacy, the reign of the 265th Pope, came to an end while the bells of St. Peter were ringing.

As our German Pope leaves the Vatican in a helicopter to spend a few months at Castel Gandolfo before retiring to a monastery within the Vatican walls and living out his last years walking its gardens, as had been his wish, a devilish little part of me whispers that the world will see him – and maybe Germans as a nation – as a quitter – squashing my tender sprout of German national pride. But mainly I admire him greatly for being keenly aware of his limits and limitations, for not wanting to be reduced to a mere figurehead, unable to conduct his office and duties. And I am thankful that we do not have to watch him deteriorate the way we witnessed his predecessor Pope John Paul II in his seemingly endless suffering.

Geh hin in Frieden, Joseph! Go in peace!

Author: Heidi Lind, International Group Coordinator, Charlotte

Best regards
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs