01 April 2013

Having To Explain The Pope, Again ...

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So he's a Jesuit, a Jesuit from an earlier era.  He isn't allowed to take up positions of authority in the Church without the permission of the Pope.  He isn't allowed to assume the trappings of temporal power.  But the Cardinals have just elected him Pope.  Whom can he ask?  What should he do?

Fortuitously, wonderfully, the first Jesuit Pope is elected to succeed the first Pope to have renounced his office in 600 years, so there is somebody to ask.  There is also a General of the Jesuit Order to consult.  There are ways of being Pope without adopting all of the traditional temporal trappings: fortuitously that's just what his predessor did, making the focus of his office that of the See of Rome, with the Petrine Ministry as an extra dimension to that role.  There are small things which will mark this Pontificate out (at least until the next Jesuit Pope is elected) like not wearing red capes, or red shoes, or using "PP" as a postnominal.  he is not Monarch of the Vatican City State.

But apart from that: we have a Bishop of Rome who is comfortable in Italian and Latin and does not think that saying "Happy Easter!" in sixty languages (badly) is part of his liturgical office.  He isn't a liturgiologist - but his predecessor was and left things in reasonable shape. 

The Mandatum rite on Holy Thursday will have to be sorted out by next year, but otherwise, you can only say things are going badly if you have an agenda which begins "I know how a Pope should do his poping" or "Back to the 1950s!" or some such.

Almost a year into Benedict XVI's Pontificate, and there were stories of him dressing in a simple black cassock, coat and beret (and black shoes) and sneaking back to the flat he had occupied when a curial Cardinal for ... who knew why? I think we can guess.

Of the modern Popes, Pius XII was trained for the job, John XXIII and Paul VI were led - dominated - by their staffs, John Paul I had no time to do anything but smile, John Paul II shaped the Papcy around his particular gifts: Benedict XVI and Francis are the two Popes who show that being a Pope is something Popes have to learn, if they are not to be puppets of the Vatican staff.  Again: how wonderful that Pope Benedict left Pope Francis Archbishop Gaenswein to give him the space in which to learn.

Much Catholic commentary is unedifying at present: much presents the Pope as a symbol of disunity in order to advance factional positions.  Keep away from anything which suggests that Pope Francis is already a failure, a disaster, a horror: all that tells you is something about the writer.

Pope Francis will make mistakes as he learns, just as Pope Benedict did.  Praying for him might be more useful to him and to the Church as a whole than criticising him.

6 comments:

Fr John Abberton said...

An excellent post. May I share my own comments? http://yorkshireshepherd.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/two-popes-and-true-meaning-of-tradition.html

Lazarus said...

Well said!

Mark Lambert said...

Well said Ttony!

Terry said...

How refreshing to read something like this. Well done and thank you!

Ben Trovato said...

Only just seen this: good stuff, as ever, Ttony!

Mike Cliffson said...

Don't vouch, but on Spanish catholic TV pOPULAR tv MURCIA STATIION ucam) a seemingly ok journalist wi' a book about to be published on the Pope (Rita Skeeter aint no invention, that's fo sure)was giving chapter and verse on the holy father's style in BA.
It was made plain that he had an excellent, coordinated team of 5 suffragan Bishops.
Who's he got in Rome?
Nothing new, it's not just the wrong uns, it's the Devil pulling all the stops to, if corrupt he cannot, at least render less, good holy men of God in the Vatican.
Sure twas ever thus , but people seem to think that the devil neither exists nor is likely to be aiming at Peter.
Well, where else ?