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La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
The Pope´s Resignation
Elisabetta Galeffi
La Pietra Dialogues
February 18, 2013

I remember the day when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope.

I was coming back from the U.S. and arrived in Bernini square in Rome.  It was the second day of the Conclave. Many journalists, friends of mine, experts in Vatican affairs, told me:  “Cardinal Ratzinger is not on the list of candidates.” They were sure.  And everyone told me the Conclave would be very long.

I decided to get inside Saint Peter´s to visit the church after many years. But before getting inside the church, the main door was closed and a French priest and I were blocked under the central balcony. The white smoke went up the chimney of the Sistine chapel, the sign that a new Pope had just been elected.

Habemus Papam.

After a few minutes, the new Pope came out onto the balcony very near to where and the French priest and I were standing.

“What a little man in a big vest”: that was my first impression. 

“I am a small worker in the vineyard of the Lord,” Benedict XVI said with smiling eyes. He was 78 years old.  

Joseph Ratzinger didn’t want to become a bishop in Germany; a few days before being elected Pope, Cardinal Raztinger called his book editor and said, “Now I’ll have time to write books, because I’m leaving my position in the Vatican.”

Pope Benedict XVI is a fine theologian. He had been a professor at several universities and wrote a book about Jesus Christ while he was Pope. In the preface of his book he wrote: “Readers can decide if I have reason or not.” One of his main beliefs is that faith and reason must coincide.

He promulgated many apostolic letters in the form of Motu Proprio, which means: to promulgate a new law without the help of people in the Roman Curia. Alone.

Among them are two very important ones: 1) For the prevention and countering of illegal activities in monetary and financial dealings: the people involved in the Marcinkus scandal were still in the Vatican bank when the Pope took office and they, the Marcinkus group, were fired immediately. 2) To prevent and to give guidelines for the use of psychology in the admission and formation of candidates for the priesthood: Pope Benedict allowed secular philologists to enter in the seminanaries (houses for priests).

He exposed the sins of the Catholic Church without reticence. He fought pedophilia in Catholic churches around the world and the old practice of protecting guilty individuals in order to save religious institutions.

For all of these reasons and despite his age he is a revolutionary Pope and a very modern man. His resignation is only the last sign: a sign of freedom.

“I am tired, I am an old man,” he said yesterday, meaning “I am a human being”. He had a hard life as soon he was elected, because after 26 years of the papacy of John Paul II, many powerful people were afraid of a new Pope who was well acquainted with the Vatican where he had lived for many years.

John Paul II travelled continuously and later was so sick that it was impossible for him to administrate the state.

It so happened that I started working for the new editor in chief of Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, a few months after the election.

I am only a reporter and I am not an expert in religious matters, however, I have spent a lot of time in the editorial office and worked there as well. A new practice under Benedict XVI and the new editor in chief of the Osservatore Romano, Professor Gian Maria Vian (a university professor at Rome´s La Sapienza University), also a secular man, was that women can work in the Osservatore editorial room

Yes, Benedict XVI was a progressive Pope. He had and still has many enemies in the Vatican, people who love power more than Christ, whose bad habits Benedict ended by reassigning powerful positions.

Another sign of the modernity of Pope Ratzinger is the idea to save the identity of the Catholic Church. Having a clear identity is the only way to face other confessions and maybe find common ground. Benedict XVI has had much success in this respect. Do you remember the Ratisbona’s speech and later his visit with the highest Muslim representative in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul? Or, more recently, his dangerous journey in Lebanon after the Arab spring? 

Islam respects Pope Benedict even after he baptized a well-known Muslim Egyptian journalist in Saint Peter’s, the night of Easter 2008.

The worst enemy of this Pope and the Catholic faith is secular ideology, the idea that freedom is without rules.  Secular ideology is against the freedom to have Catholic rules; it isn’t against Muslim or Jewish rules. The reason, I think, is because the Pope is an easy target. He is one man with many responsibilities, the head of one small state, more visible than any other religious leader.  This is part of Catholic history and tradition.

It is much easier to love the Dalai Lama without helping him come back to Tibet; nobody helps the religious freedom of his monks. Many political leaders in the world don’t receive him.

Of course now many people will try to find a reason for this resignation. Journalists and intellectuals will go crazy hypothesizing: some scandal? an incurable illness?

The truth is in the Pope’s words: “I am old and the Church needs a strong man in these modern times.”

Fides and Ratio.

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