Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 04/10/2010

Carbon-copy Popes and politicians

During Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Great Britain last month, there were many thought provoking moments as well as the gift of his homilies and addresses which serve to challenge both our Church and society as a whole. The Pope himself said that he came as a pilgrim, seeking not to bolster our country’s opinion of him but to proclaim Christ. His gentle wisdom did much to win people over but that was not the idea.

As Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the Pope’s private secretary, said while reflecting on the Holy Father’s ministry, ‘the Holy Father doesn’t place himself at the center, does not proclaim himself,’ but he proclaims Jesus Christ, ‘the only redeemer of the world.’

Much was made of the difference between Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II ‘the rock star Pope’. We daily acknowledge that others have gifts that we may desire, less readily acknoweldge that we have gifts that others would like, however, this difference was consistently pointed up as peculiar. Surely every Pope must be a charismatic showman with a gift for the theatrical. Mgr Gaenswein neatly puts it when he says that each Pope responds to Jesus’ call with ‘his own personality’ and ‘his own sensitivity.’ As, indeed, should we.

As the apostle writes: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

One more, thing, if you’ll indulge me. In his first major speech to the Labour Party conference after his election to the leadership, Ed Milliband distanced himself from former-PM Tony Blair, in particular distancing himself from the unpopular policy of the war in Iraq. Drawing a line under what has gone before, rejecting your predecessor’s policies and plans is not confined to Labour, it happens in corporations and countries across the globe. However, we can contrast this with Pope Benedict who in his very first address upon his election on 19 April 2005 acknoweldged his predecessor as ‘great’.

In this Pope Benedict XVI has given the Church and the world a wonderful lesson. Monsignor Gaenswein once more, and it’s a lesson that needs learning: ‘Whoever begins a pastoral service must not erase the footprints of the one who worked before, but must humbly put his feet in the footprints of the one who has walked and grown tired before him.’


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