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Vol 39 No 2


Kristina Keneally


Jim Quillinan

Vincent Battaglia
BELONGING, COMMUNITY, AND THE CHURCH: Some Theological and Pastoral Reflections

Lawrence Cross
THE TRINITY'S FIRST CREATION THE CHURCH: An Orthodox Bishop's Appreciation Of The West's Greatest Father Of The Church

Anthony Arthur MSC

Mark Raper SJ
THE CHURCH AS AGENT OF HOPE: What can Religious Faith Contribute to Life in Contemporary Australia?

Bruce Duncan CSsR
A NEW CATHOLIC SOCIAL MANIFESTO? The Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church



Pope Benedict XVI

SINCE THE LAST issue of Compass we have mourned the death of Pope John Paul II and hailed the election of Pope Benedict XVI. It has been an important few weeks for the Church in our life-time. All of us felt personally involved, even though it was all happening on the other side of the world—such is the inter-connectedness of the world-wide Catholic family that respects the one Holy Father. When Pope John Paul died it was as though he had left a great empty space that needed to be filled before we, the People of God, could breathe again and get on with our community life.
We need a Holy Father.

The rest of the world was also affected. People everywhere recognised that these events in Rome were of significance. The extraordinary media coverage was driven by popular demand for news and comment. Those people who tell us every so often that the Christian churches are dying were silent for the time being—it was not their moment.

We now have a new Holy Father, a man whom many, myself included, had crossed off the list of the papabili ahead of the Conclave despite the shortness of the odds in the betting. I rated him as ‘not a chance’. All those years as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had done too much damage to his public image. A friend of mine suggested that, anyway, the Europeans had not yet forgiven the Germans for the War. (I think my reason for guessing wrong was better than his.) There were other considerations why he would not be elected, considerations mostly related to actions and publications of the CDF that had not been well received, and for which Cardinal Ratzinger was ultimately responsible.

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected in emphatic manner, the poor public image of Joseph Ratzinger the Prefect of the CDF haunted some sections of the media. The new pope, one journalist told us, had been ‘the most powerful man in the Vatican’, conjuring up images of an ominous dark presence who would frighten children at bed-time! There were scary headlines, such as: ‘Arch-conservative elected pope’ and ‘Strict defender of orthodoxy’—arch and strict indicating that we should batten down the hatches.

What needs to be recognised—and many did recognise it quite soon—is that the tasks and duties of the Cardinal Prefect of the CDF and those of the Successor of Peter are very different, though they are related to each other. After all those years as disciplinarian, with the unenviable job of lowering the boom on individuals who were perceived to be doing damage, Joseph Ratzinger was now entrusted with the pastoral care of the whole flock, told to feed the lambs and the sheep, to reach out and entice back the strays, and to be careful not to extinguish the smouldering wick or crush the bruised reed.

'Conservativism' and 'concern for orthodoxy' are not obstacles in the way of carrying out either his former or his new ministry. Especially not his new ministry: Pope Benedict XVI could not be a satisfactory shepherd of the whole flock—Holy Father—if he were careless about the presentation and transmission of the faith.

The new pope's personal demeanor is very unassuming. He comes across as a rather shy and gentle person, as I had the opportunity to notice for myself once. I happened to be the only person in the foyer when he arrived at the Gregorian University a few years back for a meeting with the assembled lecturers of the ecclesiastical universities in Rome, a visit that was interpreted as an attempt to improve the image of the CDF. I was thus in place to receive from him my own personal smile and wave, and I remember thinking at that moment, 'Can this man really be the ogre he is reputed to be?'

Benedict's first official message as pope was important. He delivered it in Latin to the Cardinals of the Conclave at the end of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Sistine Chapel the day after his election. Considering that the white smoke had risen only the day before it was a message that put on display Ratzinger's remarkable capacity for clarity and orderliness of thought and expression, together with his calibre as a theologian.

In the message he emphasised five points which he later referred to as 'something of an outline' (qualche tratto) of how he saw his responsibilities as successor of Peter. The five points were: collegial communion of pope and bishops; putting the Second Vatican Council into practice; making the Eucharist the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church; the ecumenical challenge of rebuilding the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers; continuing the dialogue with the different civilizations.

Addressing the first of the five points, the collegial communion of pope and bishops, or 'collegiality', he prefaced his remarks with a plea for support and prayer and constant, active and wise collaboration and advice from all his brothers in the episcopate, so that he may truly be the Servant of the Servants of God.

The Second Vatican Council called for this collegiality, aiming to have the Successor of Peter and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, form one Apostolic College reflecting the way Christ formed Peter and the other Apostles into one Apostolic College (Lumen Gentium 22). Collegiality, as called for by the Council, is a restoration of what Jesus intended for his Church and what has been lost to view down the centuries as Church government imitated secular forms of government.

Benedict is well aware of the struggle that has gone on to make the Council's dream of true collegiality a reality. The Synods of Bishops have fallen well short of expectations; the Roman Curia tends to operate as a third entity between pope and bishops, with authority over the bishops, and many bishops are calling for that situation to change. Consequently, the monarchical model of papacy that has been the norm for many centuries still persists after Vatican II.

Benedict was a participant in the Council as a theological expert, so he knows well what the Council was aiming for. He has written clearly on collegiality, e.g. in Theological Highlights of Vatican II, Paulist Press, 1966. Of all the five points in his first official message, I sense that this first—his expressed need for collegial support and prayer and constant, active and wise collaboration and advice from all his brothers in the episcopate—bears the greatest weight of meaning in Benedict's mind and will.

Looking back through his writings and interviews over the years it seems clear to me that the poor public image he has been saddled with does not fit the personality of Joseph Ratzinger. If I am mistaken and if he has become that severe, strict arch-conservative that we have been told about, then we still have grounds for optimism because of the fact that he places so much emphasis on the need for collegiality. The constant, active and wise collaboration and advice from his brothers in the episcopate will protect us from him.

But I really believe we can now look forward to seeing the emergence of the real Joseph Ratzinger, the gentle shepherd and first-rate theologian.

—Barry Brundell MSC, Editor.