Thursday, 19 April 2012

Ad Multos Annos, Sancte Pater

People talk about remembering where they were when Kennedy was shot, or when the World Trade Center came down in September 2001.  I remember exactly where I was on 19 April 2005 when Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. 

My family and I were living in Hong Kong at the time, and I had fallen asleep in front of the television, watching CNN's wall-to-wall coverage of what was happening in Rome.  At around 2am Hong Kong time, I was woken up by the loud cheering that greeted Cardinal Estevez as he emerged to make his great announcement :
Anuntio vobis gaudium magnum;  habemus Papam: Ementissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Iosephum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI.
Cardinal Ratzinger had been much talked about as a likely candidate, but I had first become properly aware of him just over a decade before, when I was still an undergraduate.  One of the Anglican clergy at Pusey House at the time, now a Catholic, was keen on extolling his virtues, and this made a lasting impression on me.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: After the great Pope John Paul II, the Lord Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to act, even... with inadequate instruments and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the Risen Lord, trusting in His permanent help, as we go forward the Lord will help us, and His Mother, Mary Most Holy, is on our side. Thank you. 
Did any of us know in 2005 just what a massive difference Pope Benedict XVI would make to us personally?  Of course not.  The Holy Father's vision for Unity has brought the members of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, and well over a thousand others in England alone, into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  Thank you, Pope Benedict, for making this possible. 

The Provost of the London Oratory put it like this :
Another of the Holy Father’s outstanding achievements is his inspiring work for Christian Unity in setting-up the Ordinariates for former Anglicans. What a brilliant way of cutting through the plethora of mealy-mouthed verbiage and foggy thinking that has characterized so much ecumenical activity in recent decades, verbiage and fogginess which may indeed have had the very best of intentions, but which nevertheless achieved so little in real terms.

Let us also pray with all our heart and mind and strength that our vitally important ecumenical journey with our Greek and Russian Orthodox brethren will continue apace, that our charitable and respectful dialogue with them will bear much fruit, so that the universal Church might once again breathe with two whole lungs, and so that soon there may be but one flock and one shepherd. Domine, ut sit!
To add to the achievement of greater Unity brought about by Anglicanorum Coetibus, it looks like there could be a great reconciliation with the SSPX.   We have mentioned before on this blog that there are parallels, even if far from exact, between the situations of these two groups that are being / have been / will be brought (back) into full visible communion.  Those still outside full visible communion might be interested in reading this letter

In this great week when we have celebrated Pope Benedict's 85th birthday, and now the 7th anniversary of his election as our Pope, we give thanks for his mission among us, for the inspiration he provides and for his faith and devotion.  Most of all, we give thanks for his achievements in working for unity

In the words of an earlier Prince of the Church, who showed great support for Anglicans joining the Church, "God Bless Our Pope".  Ad multos annos, Sancte Pater. 

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