The Church in God's hands

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Clasp joining two pontificates

Niedziela, 17 lutego 2013 (12:54)

Aktualizacja: Poniedziałek, 15 lipca 2013 (20:41)

Sławomir Jagodziński talks to His Excellency Archbishop Andrzej Dzięga, the Szczecin-Kamień Metropolitan


The Holy Father’s decision to step down has caused much agitation, but should it be really approached as a bombshell?


– We are facing a Benedict XVI’s personal decision, which, in relation to canon law standards, should be perceived as fully normal. On the other hand, it is a completely unusual fact for the Pope to resign. From the point of view of legal mechanisms of the Church community life, the act of abdication is nothing strange. Church has always allowed a possibility of Pope’s abdication. Practically, it has always been stated that a Pope seizes to perform his duties either following his death or resignation. The act of Pope’s resignation does not require any other formal documentation or accepting the resignation by any party. It is just announced as a free decision of the Bishop of Rome. Let’s repeat it again then: it is a normal, but unusual thing to happen.


There is no doubt that the Holy Father has thoroughly thought over and prayed over his decision. And that is exactly how it should be greeted – no matter in what categories one tends to interpret it. Some would connect it with the Pope’s deteriorating health, tiredness, old age, lack of strength and so on; others would look at Benedict  XVI’s announcement: “I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer„ in strictly Biblical categories, as in “Mary has chosen what is better”.  After all, it is the question concerning a personal decision of the Holy Father and God Himself.


As a matter of fact, the fact is absolutely unusual and for this reason such a bombshell for all of us, for the whole world. But the surprise is just apparent. From the point of view of the canon law, it is a case of normal Church procedure which we should never preclude. We also should try to avoid commenting it too much in order not to becloud the clarity of the whole situation. It is much better to accept it with personal faith and just pray more for the Church and faith in the today’s world.


Does the fact, that the situation is normal, but on the other hand, totally uncommon, indicate anything more?


 – I strongly stress the need for all the Catholics to keep calm and accept the decision with no useless emotion, in the spirit of faith and prayer. The Holy Father has undoubtedly  thought it over and considered before God. At the same time, he prepared it in detail and announced. This Pope never acts emotionally and does not follow impulse. It is a Pope of prophetic vision and prophetic word; a Pope of deep meditation and great wisdom. Such people act with greatest responsibility.


The last days of Benedict XVI’s service come during the Lent. Has this also been planned by the Holy Father? Is it also a sign the Church should read?


– It is not only the Lent, but also the Year of Faith, a context that should not remain neglected. Personally, I made a following observation related to the timeframe of the event: according to what the Holy Father announced, he was going to step down exactly on 28 February at 8 p.m. That made me ask: why this day and this time? One look in the calendar was enough to find out that February 28 is a Thursday, a day before the first Friday of the month. Thus, it is the time of the Last Supper, even more – of Gethsemane. In my personal perception, making it 8 p.m. the Pope clearly suggests the time of Gethsemane, when Christ asked the apostles: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.„ Unfortunately they all fell asleep. Then, they heard a word of reproach: “Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?”. I am certain that Benedict XVI, choosing 8 p.m. on a Thursday before the first Friday of the month, has a precise message for us. In the Year of Faith, during the Lent, he calls us to meditate and to keep watch together with Jesus. So, it is recommended to stay alert in the spirit of Gethsemane and pray for the Church and faith in the world. By his choice the Holy Father clearly hands us over into the hands of Christ Himself, who is the Head of the Church. In a way, he also tells us to listen to Christ, because only His word could transfer us and save the world. The truth is that Jesus of Nazareth and the need to faith in Him are the basic values of Benedict XVI’s papal program. The Church is to remain close to Jesus, and to remain on knees. Only this guarantees its safety. Simultaneously, the Church needs to preach Christ’s Resurrection. Only then it remains faithful.


It is not a coincidence that also during John Paul II’s pontificate, dates and days of liturgical year were significant.


– Please note that exactly in a month after the announced Benedict XVI’s abdication, on March 28, there comes Maundy Thursday, with the evening dedicated to keeping watch at Christ’s side in Gethsemane, just before Good Friday. It comes exactly four weeks after. In my opinion, Holy Father has thoroughly thought it over. He teaches us about the signs of time. In case of Blessed John Paul II, many a time did we witness the symbolism of time. Let me remind the Good Friday in 2005 and the memorable Pope’s gesture to hug the cross when praying the Stations of the Cross in the Coliseum. It took place on March 25, on the day when Church meditates over the Annunciation. This Good Friday was pervaded with the mystery of Incarnation. It this single moment the whole Christ’s mission, from Incarnation to Crucifixion, cumulated. Also on that day the Novena to God’s Mercy started. John Paul II celebrated it for the last time with us and in the evening, when Apel Jasnogórski (Jasna Gora Appeal, a Polish evening prayer) was ending, on the night before Divine Mercy Sunday, he left for the  home of the Father.


It is worth reminding that it was John Paul II who, still as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, in his famous Vatican retreat, spoke of the Hour of Gethsemane that the apostles had lost and the Church still cannot “catch up with„. It is quite possible that now Benedict XVI, through the time context of his abdication, wishes to anchor the Church and all of us in Jesus Christ. I personally get such a message  in the mystery of Thursday night and the call to keep vigil with Christ in Gethsemane. It truly is a Holy Hour. I think we have a right to spiritually read the symbolism this way. The Pope who never stops to preach Jesus of Nazareth is now reminding us the words: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” .In a sense, it could be a clasp, joining both great pontificates and for us – a stable source of spiritual force and a sign of faithfulness to Christ.