The Church in God's hands

Zdjęcie: Marek Borawski/ Nasz Dziennik

Let us Surround the Church

Wtorek, 12 lutego 2013 (15:44)

Aktualizacja: Poniedziałek, 8 lipca 2013 (11:18)

Father Waldemar Chrostowski

Theologian, Biblical Scholar, and professor at the Cardinal Wyszynski State University (UKSW), Warsaw, Poland

Great courage is required to accept to serve as Pope. However even greater courage is needed to undertake the decision that the Holy Father Benedict XVI undertook yesterday. And it is from these two perspectives that the decision should be viewed. These are the two faces of the uniquely responsible task. In April 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger accepted the task that came with being elected to Saint Peter’s See, with great humility. The words he spoke at the start of his pontificate bear witness to the deep diagnosis he expounded about the Church’s condition and its place in the modern world.

For the nearly eight years of his pontificate the Holy Father unceasingly deepened this diagnosis. He continually gave all to understand that the tasks the Church faces are so dramatic and difficult, and the Church’s living presence so essential, that the importance of the voice, and role of Christ’s vicar, is absolutely unique. The date of the abdication is also most significant – the holy day of the Mother of God fromLourdesand the World Day of the Sick. There were no leaks, but it is clear that the Pope prepared himself most discretely, before announcing his decision, that did not mature over many days or weeks, but more probably over many months, or possibly even longer. In choosing the Mother of God fromLourdesholy day and the World Day of the Sick he is asking us to understand the circumstances and considerations that underpin his abdication decision.

The pope is under no obligation to disclose a doctor’s certificate or the results of a doctor’s diagnosis about his state of health. It is more than likely that with time we will learn more and understand more. However what is important is that Benedict XVI is telling us that he is less strong. And because he himself witnessed the gradual advancement of his predecessor John Paul II illness in the early 2000’s, it is I believe for that reason that his perception of the Church and his role in it are especially marked by his recollections of the events he witnessed at the time.

We should be encouraged to ponder upon the necessary courage needed to undertake such a difficult decision. It is equally important to try to understand its deeper meaning and significance. I do not think us capable of undertaking such a task today. We need much more time. And because the decision is so unprecedented (there is no such example in modern history), we also need unprecedented prayer as well as to trust the Holy Father implicitly. We should not look at the decision out of a temporary curiosity and sensationalism, but much more so from a Christian faith perspective. For in this Year of The Faith and his decision Benedict XVI is trying to tell us something immensely important, and that is that God needs people not only when they are active and capable of effective action, but also, when the time comes, to bear witness, through advanced old age, suffering and infirmity, as well as the humble acceptance that Peter’s barge should and can be steered by somebody else. The Church is presently going through an extremely important time during which we all need a lot of prayer.

Benedict XVI decision will, over the coming days, perhaps couple of weeks, undoubtedly arouse great interest, especially in the mass media. However we will all quickly become accustomed, and then will come the time of the sede vacante and the Conclave, and the election of a new Pope.



Bogusław Rąpała