Pope Benedict XVI

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In the winter of 2004 I had been taken to task by a zealous RC seminarian who took exception with my opinion that, given Pope John Paul II’s failing health he should retire, take care of himself, and pass the torch to another Cardinal. The seminarian mistook my comment as a criticism of JPII’s leadership, and was adamant that a pope must serve until death. We had all learned in the seminary that historically, not all popes had served until death. While it was unusual for a pope to retire, it was not unheard of.  My point was that the church was literally and figuratively propping JPII up for all the world to see, when there could be another option. To what end? And why? Was the church missing something or was I?

I must admit, when Pope John Paul II died I felt I understood better that young seminarian’s point of view. I had learned (along with the rest of the world) a valuable lesson from Pope John Paul II’s example of service to God and man until death do us part. I was moved; and felt as if I had seen and experienced a living saint minister among us until his dying day.

Like most of the world I was unprepared (and pleasantly surprised) to hear that Pope Benedict had done what no other pope had done since 1415 – announce his retirement for health reasons. And there it was. It was possible. I never expected “Benny16”* to choose that path. But, God bless him for deciding to pass the baton, as he has said, for the good of the Church.

(* Back in April 2005 a Roman Catholic priest friend of mine had  started calling the former Joseph Ratzinger, or  Pope Benedict, “Benny16” in the same way a fan of rap music would pronounce “50cent!” which sounded phonetically a whole lot like’ fiddysent!’  We all cracked up, and to this day I smile when I think of my longtime, very funny friend.)

In the end, just as Pope Benedict XVI has shown, we’ve all got to follow our own conscience and make decisions that might not please all of the people all of the time. I learned to admire John Paul II for his faithful commitment until the end of his life.  Once again, I have learned another valuable lesson, this time from Benny16. It is alright and altogether good to set a healthy example; when it is time for someone else to lead, it’s okay to step aside and let them do so.

While I clearly have my differences with the Roman Catholic Church (and have made major life changes because of those differences), I am grateful for the positive influence of many good, faith-filled, leaders and lay people of the Church. God Bless both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for the positive things they have done for the people of the world.

Peace friends,

Chuck

P.S.
A friend sent me a link to this interesting article ~ “A parish priest’s hopes for the next pope” by Father Peter Daly

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