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Posted May 17, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Church

In the May 6th edition of Commonweal, several prominent people give us their opinion of Pope Benedict XVI and what the church needs now? The final paragraph of writers is often like the final moments of a Fourth of July fireworks display — all stops are pulled out and they end with a big bang. The finalities of these writers are posted here for your consideration, comparison and comments.

From the Editors of Commonweal:

This kind of modesty, [Ratzinger’s modesty] coupled with a willingness to delegate authority, is much needed in a church that is often tempted by the glamour and exaggerated certainties of a kind of papalotry. At seventy-eight years of age, Joseph Ratzinger presumably knows the church cannot be carried on the shoulders of one man. He must also know that the church, and not just the secular culture, has a great deal more work to do. Pope Benedict XVI has asked for our prayers in that work, and he has them.

Cathleen Kaveny

Finally, please let us see, somehow, that the Holy Spirit has infused your heart with love, and not merely gifted your mind with wisdom. In these polarized times, the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians apply to each and every one of us. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And If I bestow all my good to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.” As any good scholar of St. Augustine knows, the decisive mark of the Catholic Church is charity, not purity.

Margaret O’Brien Steinfels

The choice of Joseph Ratzinger as pope has been a disappointment, no doubt. But Benedict XVI faces enormous challenges in both church and culture — the same challenges all Catholics face. If my proposed motto for the new pope — “loosen up” — seems an unlikely choice for him, that doesn’t mean the rest of the church shouldn’t adopt it.

Amy Uelman

As we contemplate the “superhuman strength” required to pull together these elements in tension, our greatest hope, of course, is Christ, who holds all things together and promised to be with us until the end of the age. As John Paul II wrote in Novo Millennio, any “program” for the church ultimately has its center in Christ, “who is to be known, loved, and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem.” Thus, perhaps the most important prayer for Pope Benedict — or any Christian leader, for that matter — is not superhuman strength but docility to the presence, voice, and light of Christ.

Robert P. Imbelli

The daunting challenges presented to Benedict XVI and to the whole church can seem overwhelming. Like Peter and the disciples in the storm-driven boat, we are tempted to lose heart. But the two-fold passion, for Christ and for communion, is the beacon that guides disciples, not away from suffering and the cross, but toward meeting them with faith, in the hope of resurrection. Together with St. John of the Cross the church of the new millennium chants the song of “The Dark Night”: Sin otra luz z guia/Sino la que en el corazon ardia — “Without no other light and guide/ Save that which burned in my heart.”