Catholic Church is in safe hands now
IN the corridors of the Vatican which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger prowled for 25 years he was revered, held in awe, by those who met him.
Some would go so far as to say he was feared. After all, he got the nickname of "the Rottweiler" and the reputation of being Pope John Paul II’s "enforcer" - and "henchman".
I remember being shown around the Holy Office in the Vatican where he worked and was given a glimpse inside his private office only because he was out of the country at the time. The young Scottish priest showing me round admitted he would not have taken me near the "boss’s" office if he had been on duty.
But as I was to discover years later, these descriptions of the man were not only so far off course they were sadly comical.
Pope Benedict XVI is a charming, friendly caring man and he is sincere in what he says and does.
I remember the wonderful night in 2003 in Rome when Cardinal Keith O’Brien had earlier received his red hat from Pope John Paul II and was holding a reception in the Vatican.
Cardinal O’Brien had been criticised at home for what was considered his liberal views by right-wing activists in the Church who had petitioned the Vatican to have the Pope withdraw the Red hat.
The petition had, of course, reached Cardinal Ratzinger’s desk. In his position in the Vatican Curia Cardinal Ratzinger was well aware of what was happening in Scotland. To everyone’s surprise, when he bounced smiling into the Great Hall he walked first to Cardinal O’Brien and embraced him.
What he said to our cardinal I don’t know, but I feel it was along the lines of: "The Pope chose you and that is all that matters. Enjoy the moment." He also took time to meet other Scots and to a colleague and myself he said: "Enjoy your evening, you have your own cardinal now."
This is why when I heard the man preaching at the funeral of John Paul II I was not surprised that his words were full of sincerity and love of the man he was talking about.
He is a brilliant academic and a renowned theologian but he surpassed himself in his homily on John Paul II. I could not help but write we had listened to a man who had "talked himself into the top job". Yesterday, I was proved correct.
We know the man, but what kind of Pope have the cardinals of the Conclave of 2005 given the Church and the world in this new millennium? I would describe Pope Benedict XVI as a man of his time who will be a progressive Pope and I am sure there are exciting times ahead in the Catholic Church.
But the reassuring thought is that the Church is in a very safe pair of hands who will continue to be a faithful guardian of the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church.
There is no denying, and it is not surprising, he is of the same mould as John Paul II. After all, they had worked together for 25 years and at times Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to be even more conservative than John Paul II.
He is the first German pope in 480 years and the seventh to hold this office. He might hold the same opinions as John Paul II in many things, but we are at the beginning of the new pontificate of Benedict XVI. He is just the man who will put his own stamp on it his pontificate.
The pontificate of Benedict XVI will be controversial at times, of this there is no doubt. But I don’t see any changes coming in the celibacy laws for priests, and woman priests will remain a no-go area in the Catholic Church.
But as he was a caring man in a one-to-one basis as a priest, archbishop and cardinal his nature will not change. I think therefore that, while he might have refused to do it before, he will listen to requests from bishops in various corners of the world and be prepared to listen to their arguments and debates for changes.
I have in mind the law on contraceptives for example in countries like Africa. The request from there for freedom to use contraceptives will not be to prevent contraception but to fight the battle against Aids. For such a genuine plea I hope that we will find the hard-liner "henchman" will mellow as Pope.
BEFORE the Conclave broke up, the cardinals knelt before Benedict XVI to pledge their loyalty to him. When it was Cardinal O’Brien’s turn, the Pope addressed him: "Ah my Scottish Cardinal." Cardinal O’Brien replied: "The greatest title you now have is Servant of the Servants of God. Do this job as Christ did and the great John Paul II".
The Pope is going to be a busy man. But he still has two words ringing in his ears "santo subito" - A saint soon. It was the plea of the people at the funeral of the great John Paul II to make him a saint.
I think it will be top of the agenda of Benedict XVI . . . God bless him.
YOUR SAY What do you think the new Pope will bring to the Church? Let us know. Tel: 0131 620 8692 or email email@example.com
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