WE THANK GOD FOR THE PONTIFICATE OF BENEDICT XVI
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
Pope Benedict XVI took over the Holy See in Rome eight years ago, on 19 April 2005. After the pontificate of John Paul II, who had directed the universal Church for 27 years very successfully and with the friendliness of nearly the whole world, it was not easy to be pope; especially that cardinal Ratzinger did not have much pastoral experience, as he had been a clerk of the Roman Curia for many years, a well-educated professor of dogmatic theology. However, John Paul II had appreciated him very much, often wondering aloud during his pontificate, what cardinal Ratzinger would have said in a particular issue. Because of his steadfast, clear theological line, he was given the title of an armored cardinal.
And here this cardinal appeared as a new, different, quiet successor of St. Peter and Bishop of Rome. We knew that this pontificate would not be too long, because cardinal Ratzinger had taken over his authority in the Church at the age of 78. Benedict XVI was holding his apostolic office in his own way, but with great look at his prominent predecessor. It was even said that in some sense Benedict XVI is a Polish pope. We remember how pope Wojtyła had guarded the option of the pastor of the universal Church, not neglecting difficult realities of particular countries, including his homeland. Maybe he was liked by the world so much because he was extremely honest towards people, but treated God’s matters in the first place above anything else and also encouraging us to it. Benedict XVI was trying to do the same. So, although in the beginning of this pontificate we found it difficult to understand God’s intention which was revealed in the fact that pope of German origin would direct the Church now, it turned out quickly that our prejudices were not justified in reality. Benedict XVI, looking at the window of the Heavenly Home of John Paul II, was managing the Church widely open to the problems of the world. Worldly media and politicians were observing his actions and pronouncements very thoroughly, sometimes contributing to the appearance of various objections, for example, in Ratyzbona, where the Muslims protested against Benedict XVI, not understanding completely what he meant and concentrating on the expressions taken out of a wider context.
Pope Benedict XVI distinguished himself with his unusual intelligence and theological erudition. His knowledge of theology was impressive all the time. It is proven, first of all, by his encyclicals: ‘Deus caritas est’ (2006), ‘Spesalvi’ (2007), ‘Caritas in veritate’ (2009), four apostolic exhortations and many motuproprio, as well as books, among the others, 3 volumes of ‘Jesus from Nazareth’, and also wise and deep Wednesday catechesis. The man of the highest theological and humanistic format had been holding the post on St. Peter’s throne for 8 years, who undertook the problems of the contemporary man in a dignified and beautiful way.
Managing the universal Church is a very complex and responsible matter. The very act of defining a direction of work in the Roman Curia is an extremely important part of every pope’s work. Benedict XVI turned out to be a man of great courage and trustfulness to people here, which sometimes had to result in disappointment, like the one connected with the so-called Vatileaks.
Certainly, we, Poles, did not have a direct access to the pope. Anyway, it was a completely different pontificate, as much as the man sitting on the papal throne was, who was of a different personality. But the expression of Benedict’s XVI work addressed at the Polish Church and Polish pilgrims was always very honest and friendly. The pope was learning to pronounce particular words and sentences in Polish, because he knew that Poles needed it, that they were waiting for these signs of friendliness and unity.
Benedict XVI also did an extremely important thing for us, Poles – that is – he undertook the matter of the beatification of John Paul II. It was a very important moment in his pontificate, awaited by believers of the whole world. This Pope also continued the apostolic journeys initiated by his predecessor and although his pontificate, comparably with the previous one, was disproportionately short, which he experienced in his older age, he had made 24 apostolic journeys.
It should also be emphasized that he had made the second pilgrimage to Poland. At that time we noticed his honest relations of friendship with the Polish nation, Polish bishops, he turned out to be a great friend to Poland and Poles. In his pronouncements he referred to courageous texts of John Paul II and as much as he reminded, advised, he also appreciated and truly enjoyed the possibility of being together.
The pontificate of Benedict XVI must raise respect, acknowledgement and admiration, because it was strongly connected with the pontificate of John Paul II. This pope often referred to thoughts and ideas of John Paul II, he quoted his pronouncements, continued his ventures. They included, among the others, the World Youth’s Days, initiated by John Paul II in 1985 (Rome) – Benedict XVI was consequently running these meetings in the spirit of the Polish Pope. He also continued ecumenical actions of John Paul II.
Poles started clinging to the Benedict XVI very quickly. Sometimes it seems that they loved him maybe more than his compatriots, who did not spare him criticism, sometimes even too arrogant one. In Poland it has rather never happened. Surely, pastoral ministry of Benedict XVI does not deserve a bad opinion. It was the pope who made memorable decisions. They also include the one about the abdication from the papal office, which is a courageous and responsible act in holding the authority. Despite the surprise in the universal Church, this decision of Benedict XVI deserves the highest respect and recognition and it will surely bring fruits in a form of a new way of thinking in the Church and about the Church. The pope proved that the significance of the work which is the Church, requires much strength and full devotion, and he does not have them because of his age and state of health. Nevertheless, being concealed from the world, he is going to support the efforts of his successor through his prayer.
We thank Benedict XVI for his beautiful ministry, full of God’s culture, for the sake of both the universal Church and the Church which is in Poland.