'Take care of all that has been entrusted to you' - the main task of the Pope
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
Many of us asked the question about the Church after John Paul II's death. What challenges and tasks will the successor of the great Pope face?
Who will be the new pope? And now we know the new Holy Father - Benedict XVI - Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
John Paul II was the pope whom the world loved. He was loved by the mature people, the old and the young ones. We saw him at the moment of his death and later when we experienced his funeral. The thought of John Paul II has been made alive today; the press abundantly publishes fragments of his teaching. The secular press also does this in a professional, interesting and elegant way and thus it draws the interest of readers who drink in such themes. However, I think many people have seen good business in this great event and want to use for their own purposes what was the most sacred message of John Paul II. We can see it happen in many media, in election slogans of politicians and political parties, in the world of economy and business. Nevertheless, we must remember that their credibility will be checked by life. In all his life the Holy Father John Paul II was faithful to the Cross, to the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus Christ. Whoever wants to follow him or have him as his/her patron must put his message into practice.
However, resuming the first question, the tasks of the new Pope: the unchanging and fundamental task of all shepherds of the Church is the command of Christ, 'Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations' (cf. Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15). On the other hand, the situation is completely different from what it was before and each year brings much new: technical achievements, scientific progress, specific change of mentality. All of this causes the Church to adjust to new times. So did John Paul II in his way of teaching. He could meet the new needs and requirements. The fact that his passing away to God and his funeral were so universally experienced with such great respect and love is among others the effect of his attitude towards the 'newness', among others to media, which play an enormous role in our reality. John Paul II was never afraid of being in the eyes of the whole world, all his pastoral visits - 104 international ones and numerous Italian visits - were reported in a detailed and critical way. He did not close himself in the Vatican but he went out to people. Thus he fulfilled Christ's command, 'Go and make disciples...' His death and funeral prove that people heard his voice and understood his message. The Church has to preserve this sign of the times and must show it.
Pope Benedict XVI will also have to face the problem how to proclaim the Gospel. As Cardinal Ratzinger he spoke at Mass inaugurating the conclave and said that above all one should be faithful. Be faithful with the faithfulness, which flows from the love for Christ. It is difficult and unpopular because the contemporary world would like to make everything relative, first of all to make relative moral teaching of the Church, God's commandments, so all that constitutes the value of our faith. The new Holy Father must face the fundamental problem of the Church - faithfulness to Jesus Christ, faithfulness to what the Church professes and what is included in her tradition. And this is not so that the one who is faithful to the spirit of the Gospel is not progressive and modern. Strength, sense and true progress are expressed by faithfulness to morally good principles. The teaching of the Christian Credo will, therefore, constitute the main task of the new Pope who will realise it through his teaching, attitude, example and prayer. John Paul II stressed that the most important task of the pope was prayer.
Therefore, fundamental Christian principles are obligatory to all popes, including those who will be elected in the future. A man of faith cannot undermine, reduce or change what has been entrusted to him. It was exactly that spirit that prevailed in the words of the cardinals who opened the conclave: Credo in unum Deum... I believe in one God... I believe in all the Church teaches. That's why we are sure that every successor of St Peter will always take care of the deposit of the faith since this is the task of Magisterium Ecclesiae - the Teaching Office of the Church.