My phone rang. It was Cura, a friend of mine who worked in one of these multinationals.
‘Amzi, have you heard the breaking news?’
‘Which one of them?’ I asked ‘Don’t forget that I’m a small fry and I no reach your level. I neither have a Blackberry nor a TV….’
She was impatient ‘Look, Pope Benedict XVI has announced his decision to resign.’
‘Are you joking?’
Different thoughts passed through my head at that instant, the foremost of them being ‘infidelity’! The pope is resigning – no, he’s running away! What will happen to the Church of which he is the bonus pastor – the good shepherd? What next from here?
‘Are you there?’Cura asked
‘Yes, yes, yes’
As if she could read my thoughts, she said ‘I’ll come over to your place this evening and then we can talk’ she hung up.
I was a new convert to the Faith and my not-so-strong faith was already being shaken at the roots. As work had to be done, I managed to keep my thoughts at bay until evening. Mercifully, it was soon 5.00pm and I packed my bag to go home. She was already in her car, outside my modest apartment, waiting for me.
‘Welcome, she said, opening the door to let me into the cool interior of the car. There was no need entering into the house. I sat down and looked at her and she saw the words form on my lips.
‘INFIDELITY! Why is he running away?’
‘I felt like this at first’ she said smiling, her tone a stark contrast to mine. ‘But now, I have come to understand and to respect his decision. He’s not being cowardly. He’s very brave.’
‘Prove it!’ I retorted angrily, not understanding why anyone, least of all Cura, would accept and even ‘applaud’ such a decision. I didn’t wait for her to finish.
‘He who puts his hand on the plough and looks back is not fit for my kingdom’ so says Christ. It’s in the bible. Besides, where has ‘I’ll be with you till the end of time’ gone to? When Christ said that, he said it to His Church ant His apostles, of which the Pope – St. Peter is the Head. How about that?’ I asked, panting from the effort.
‘Calm down, Amzi. Don’t take it too personal. With the way you’re sounding, you’ll soon be wearing a pacemaker as he does.’
‘You didn’t know. Yes, he needs a pacemaker for his heart and the ‘battery’ had to be replaced in a surgical operation recently. Besides, he’s almost 86. How old is your grandmother?’
‘She’s 78 years old and yes, she’s not as strong as I am which is expected.’
‘That was the age at which Benedict XVI was elected. How many children does your grandma have?’
‘Altogether, we are not up to a hundred, but each generation takes care and charge of her affairs. It’s almost the same thing with the Pope, isn’t it? He’s not personally responsible for each of his over one billion children…’
‘Of which you’re one’
‘That’s right’ I agreed
‘True, but you’re wrong. Though he’s aided by his cardinals, bishops, priests and the lay faithful themselves, he’s still personally responsible for each one of those children. The effect of anything they do – good or bad – gets to him. Unfortunately, he’s never praised for the good things they do but they won’t let him hear the last of it for the few bad things they do.’
‘Let us come back to the point and examine your earlier statements, from the bible. ‘I’ll be with you till the end of time. Christ will be with Peter, whoever he is, and with the Church till the end of the age. I don’t know where your faith is, but my faith is first in Christ and in His Church, and then with His Pope. And what happens when there has to a change of Christ’s Vicar? My faith is not shaken because it is in Christ ‘who is the same yesterday, today and forever, and as a consequence, my faith will be in the new Pope.’
‘But what about ‘looking back’? Is he not running away?’
‘No, he’s not. The Church laws make provision for this. In the code of cannon law which contain all the possible laws for governing the Church, canon 332, section 2 states
‘Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.’
‘In his case, the cardinals, on behalf of the Church, accepted his resignation. Have you managed to read the speech announcing the resignation? He says ‘after examining myself before God, I have come to the conclusion that my strengths are no longer suitable for the exercise of the Petrine ministry…’
‘That sounds like sincerity’ I commented sceptically
‘Thank you. Now you’re beginning to see things clearly’.
‘But I’m still not convinced. We cannot read his mind. How do we know that there’s no other reason why he’s resigning? There must be something else behind it, probably a scandal. You never can tell.’
‘I didn’t think that you were one of those who always look for hidden meanings and actions where there are none.’
I winced at her rebuke.
‘I’m sorry, but we have to learn to take others words as they have said it, to trust. The Church is catholic – universal – she admits both saints and sinners into her fold. Yes, there have been and there are still some scandals, very few, mind you, when compared with the crisis in the world, but because what our generation likes to hear are the sensational news, the media seizes the opportunity to magnify things disproportionately.’
‘Well, if the Church claims to be holy…’
‘Excuse me; the Church is indeed holy because she is the body of Christ, her Head, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is holy.’
‘Well, since the Church is holy, you can’t blame the media too much. Science teaches us that while ‘like poles repel each other, unlike poles are attracted to each other.’ One would much more easily spot a stain on a clean material than on a dirty one.’
‘That’s very true’
‘But, many good people have accused him of running away from Christ’s cross and their arguments are quite convincing’.
‘Perhaps they are, but those people haven’t understood the Church and the pope. They should stop and consider and realize that Christ’s cross has varying manifestations. John Paul II’s cross was to bear his illness to the end, unable to visit his people, speak to them, listen to them, be with them. Now, Benedict XVI’s cross is to accept the truth of his incapacity and to resign from this supposed ‘high and mighty throne’, knowing fully well the consequences, and to retire to a monastic life of prayer. This is a man who’d give anything to be with his books, to teach the truths, a learned theologian!’
‘Hmm! But where do we go from here?’
‘There will be a conclave soon, where the cardinals, guided by the Holy Spirit will elect a new Pope. Christ is with His Church and as you said, He’ll be with her till the end of time.’
‘Some people are already speculating that Benedict XVI, who’s retiring into a monastery within the Vatican walls, may give trouble to the new Pope.’
‘What a fallacy. It shows that they have very little or no knowledge of Christ’s Church. The Church is both spiritual and human. It’s not a political entity, so there’s no question of trying to play dirty games, as some do. Besides, humanly speaking, Benedict XVI is not a child. He’s not a fool. He’s a man who wants the best for his sheep – the Church – and who knows that each man, beginning from himself, is answerable personally to God for his actions. I hope you understand, Amzi, because I’m getting overheated and I’m going to leave it there. ’
‘What we need to do now is to pray for this Pope, Benedict XVI, and for the new one, whoever he may be – black or white. Pray that he be holy and that he leads the Church following Christ’s footsteps, regardless of what the media or outsiders may think’.