The Papal resignation
Ceremony for St Joseph’s
The Papal resignation
I have been privileged to meet Pope Benedict XVI twice in the last year. The first time was in December 2011, when I accompanied the 17 Bishops of the South Pacific to Rome. Each of us had to present to the Pope Benedict a five yearly report on our respective dioceses. And again in September 2012 when I was at the Vatican for two weeks attending a workshop for new bishops.
Already in 2011 the Pope was showing his age which was not surprising given he was 84. But the decline was very obvious to me in September, 2012 when the Pope walked into the meeting room assisted by aids at his side. Once he was seated and started into the presentation of his address to us, there was no doubt how sharp his mind still was. That too came across in my first visit when I presented my report. He picked up on the decline in the population over the five year period. He was interested in how tourism impacted on the church. He appreciated to hear of tourists attending Sunday worship and who were getting married in the Cook Islands and made the effort to get married in a church.
There is no doubt that the resignation of Pope Benedict was a complete surprise. No Pope had resigned since 1415, 600 years ago. Some said the reaction was a shock. Some used the word ‘quit’. Some suggested the catholic world was in turmoil as a result of the resignation. A priest friend told me that his neighbour came up to him on the morning that Benedict resigned and said “I am sorry for the loss of your Mr Pope.” This person, like so many of us who haven’t encountered anything quite like this, was struggling to find the right language. The person ended the conversation by saying, “Oh, well, good on him, he realised he was too old, and not in good health. There is no disgrace in retirement and at 85 he deserves a break.” After all he was the eldest Pope elected in 300 years.
Reflecting on the resignation myself, I was somewhat impressed in the retiring Pope’s humility. In retiring he acknowledged that his role was a ministry entrusted to him by God on April 19, 2005. He reminded us that the church is not his church, rather it belongs to Christ. And despite his pivotal role in the last eight years, he expressed hope in the future saying he is confident Christ’s care and guidance for His Church will never be lacking. Lastly he told us he is resigning for the good of the Church.
POPE BENEDICT’S LEGACY
Benedict is regarded as among the most accomplished Catholic theologians of his generation-Benedict XVI was what church historians call a ‘teaching pope’ as opposed to a governor. His passion was invested in his teaching documents, his speeches on foreign trips, his regular catechesis at the Vatican, and the three books on the life of Christ he published. This teaching often struck people as profound and surprisingly free of ideological edge.
The Catholic Church since 2005, during the time of Benedict XVI has reflected his belief that the Church should retain its core traditional, conservative values in an era of rapid change. He rejected calls for a debate on the issue of clerical celibacy and the ordaining of women. He has also said the Church’s strict positions on abortion, euthanasia and gay partnerships were ‘not negotiable’.
Benedict was not a charismatic figure like his predecessor John Paul II, however he still fared well on the public stage. His trips drew enthusiastic crowds, and turnout at his public audiences actually exceeded Pope John Paul’s numbers.
THE EFFECT ON THE COOK ISLANDS
Here in the Cook Islands two requests of Benedict have influenced us. Until the early 1960s the catholic mass was only celebrated in Latin worldwide. When the mass was translated into English different translations resulted in different parts of the world. For example there were at least three different translations of the prayer ‘Our Father’ which was confusing. Pope Benedict XVI had written a new English translation of the mass and now everyone in the English speaking world uses this one and only translation. In the Cook Islands we changed to this translation at the end of 2011 with ease.
The second event that influenced us is that Benedict declared 2012/2013 as a Year of Faith throughout the Catholic World. In his view it was timely that we took time out to study what our faith taught in order to renew and strengthen our relationship with Christ. Our parishes here in the Cook Islands have responded well to this call. On Rarotonga, monthly, a good sized group meets in the Cathedral to study the core teachings such as the Creed, Sacraments, Moral Teachings and Prayer. These teachings are contained in a book known as the Catechism containing 2,865 individual teachings. The recent course for our 27 catechists and their wives, a five yearly event, enabled the presenters to develop themes around the Year of Faith.
The only negative comment I got from Pope Benedict’s office when presenting my report in 2011 in Rome was disappointment over the lack of local priests and sisters in the Cook Islands. One local priest was a concern as it is expected a local church will eventually have its own clergy.
THE ELECTION PROCESS
In CI News on Friday, February 15 a smoke signaller suggested Father Freddie Kaina become a cardinal so that he could be considered in the election for Pope.
In theory, any baptized male Catholic can be elected pope, but current church law says he must become a bishop before taking office.
Since the 15th century, the electors always have chosen a fellow cardinal. In 1973, the Pacific did have a Cardinal, in Cardinal Pio Taofinu’u the then bishop of Samoa. Cardinal Pio participated in the election of two Popes in 1978. Pope John Paul I whose pontificate was only 28 days and then Pope John Paul II. New Zealand has a Cardinal, Thomas Williams who blessed our Cathedral here in Avarua in 1994. But as he is over 80 he will not participate in this election process.
I understand at this conclave there will be 117 Cardinals present. The Cardinal electors, by their continents of origin, will be 61 Europeans, 19 Latin Americans, 14 North Americans, 11 Africans, 11 Asians, and 1 from Australia. The country with the greatest number of Cardinal electors is Italy, with 21. Sixty-seven of the electors were created by Benedict XVI and the remaining 50 by John Paul II.
The Cardinal electors must remain in the Vatican during the entire period of conclave, and no one can approach them when they move from the Sistine Chapel to their place of residence or vice versa. All forms of communication with the outside world are prohibited. I understand about eight Cardinals use Twitter and have been told they will not be able to tweet while in conclave. As in the past, the Sistine Chapel stove will be used to burn the ballots after each vote. Black smoke signals that in that ballot no Pope was elected. White smoke signals to those waiting in the Square that there is now a new Pope.
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT POPE?
Who will be the next Pope? My knowledge of the Cardinals is very limited. When in Rome each day for the two weeks four Cardinals lectured us. I have heard the likes of Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana speak and preach. Then another speaker was Cardinal Ouellet of Canada. And too, Joao Braz de Aviz from Brazil. These men are all working in the Vatican.
One personal observation that I would make that reflects the changing nature of the Church is this. In the workshop I was attending there were 95 bishops from missionary dioceses around the world. Over 80 of those bishops were local men from their local diocese. Most of these local bishops were from Africa. The Church is very much aware that its strength today is in the mission territories and no longer in places like Europe. Will this point come out in the election?
Pope Benedict’s resignation is inviting the Church to entrust herself with confidence to the Holy Spirit and to a new Successor of Peter who should be installed in time for Holy Week and Easter celebrations.
Bishop Paul Donoghue
Ceremony for St Joseph’s
New St Joseph School prefects Andre Tuiravakai and Conrad Hunter ham it up for the cameras in their ei.
Dramatized biblical stories and words of encouragement were all part of the St Joseph School prefect induction ceremony yesterday.
The whole school gathered at the St Joseph’s Cathedral to honour the new student leaders for the 2013 school year.
The prefects and senior students played a key role in the morning mass which included a biblical skit played out by the students.
Students were then encouraged to live with Jesus in their lives as their guide – much like their parents are, and teachers at school.
Each new student leader received their prefect’s badges from principal Sister Celine and Catholic Bishop Paul Donoghue before a group blessing.
Proud families and friends then adorned the students with loads of flower and lolly ei before they stepped out of the Cathedral as new school leaders.
Prefects list and more photos Monday.