February 22 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Strong in Faith

A fortnightly discussion chaired by our Catholic university chaplaincies. This week: What do you think of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign? How has his Papacy influenced you? Next question: What are you hoping for in the next Pope? Have your say at http://www.facebook.com/scostronginfaith



It is very sad. We’ll miss him when he’s gone. And I think he’s made a mistake on this.                                                                    CHRIS McLAUGHLIN


You think he has made a mistake? If you check the many stories that are now appearing, the Pope gives his full reason for this very brave decision. Rather than judge him, we should be praying for him, the conclave and the whole Catholic Church. LISA DIVER


God bless him. The Pope has done a wonderful job, I commend his decision and the thought he has put into it.                           TED THORLEY


Very sad news indeed. He is a wonderful Pope and we will miss him indeed. The only consolation really is that I trust his wisdom enough to believe he has good reason for this. We must pray for the Church and the cardinals especially, they have a great task to wisely choose his successor.



I, like most of us, I am sure—was taken by complete surprise at today’s announcement, particularly in comparison to the Holy Father’s predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, who very publicly allowed his own passion to play out before a global audience. I am crestfallen for the Pope himself, but am also grateful that he would act with the humility to put the needs of the Church before his own personal glory. I remain a huge fan of the Pope’s writings, both as a Cardinal and thence as Pontiff. In particular his three-part series on Jesus of Nazareth, which I highly recommend to anyone looking for an entertaining spiritual read.                EMERSON STEVENS


Like Jesus being tempted in the desert, the Pope knows that God will provide his material needs if he follows God the Father. We should pray that our relationship with God the Father like the Holy Father’s; be strengthened by our ability to admit that we need God in our lives and it is not our will but his that guides us on our journey of faith.



Having thought about this some more I am less devastated than I was when the news broke. Pope Benedict XVI has been an absolutely magnificent Pope and I will be very, very sad to see him go. His attempts at real ecumenism are a great testimony to him, and his liturgical “reform of the reform” was most welcome. It’s because I am so in favour of these initiatives that I worry about what will come next, and whether the next Pope will be as enthusiastic a supporter.

When I said: “I think he has made a mistake on this,” I was not only thinking about the short-term issues but also the long-term impact on the Papacy as an institution. Specifically:


— I worry that now the precedent has been set, future Popes will face increased pressure on them to resign when times are tough.

— I worry that a future ‘Pope emeritus’ could be a real thorn in the side of a future Pope if they disagree on some issue.

— I worry about the rationale behind the Pope’s resignation. It is said he quit because he cannot make long air journeys anymore. If that is the case then we have to think a little deeper about what the Papacy is and what it means in the 21st century. If the Bishop of Rome is to be some kind of travelling showman—and I don’t mean that disparagingly—then that changes what sort of men we need. Perhaps the travelling evangelist role could be delegated to someone else. An analogy might be the role of US Secretary of State.

—  John Paul the Great’s long and public decline in health was a heroic witness to the eternal dignity of man made in the image and likeness of his creator. It was one of the best arguments against euthanasia that could ever have been made—one which was (and still is) required.


I can assure you, there are few people in the world who are as big a fan of Pope Benedict as me, but he is still a human being who can make mistakes. I think there are difficult times ahead for the Church and we all have to pray very hard for a good successor.                            CHRIS McLAUGHLIN


I agree that Pope Benedict has been a magnificent Pope. The creation of the Anglican Ordinariates, Summorum Pontificum, and so on, are actions of a leader of remarkable insight and courage, and, whilst his successor may need to take a firmer approach on some things, Pope Benedict’s approach of ‘proposing not imposing’ was probably what the Church needed this past decade. We must hope that his example will be followed even more widely in the wake of his abdication than it has been during his Pontificate.

To take up some of Chris’s concerns, I also worry that some may use Pope Benedict’s resignation to try to set a precedent. However, if he had good reason for it then that stands regardless of how others may try to twist it. I do hope that his successor is able to reign until death so as to make it quite clear that the nature of the Papacy has not changed.

I think—and hope—that his reasons for going were not just that he cannot travel internationally any more. While this role is important for the modern Papacy, the Papacy remains far more than that. I suspect that concerns about how the Church would be governed in his infirmity probably influenced Pope Benedict’s decision far more. I suspect that Pope Benedict is acutely aware of the damage a poorly functioning bureaucracy could do. I think that the Holy Father has judged that in the next decade it will be vital to have a man on the throne of St Peter who is physically able to react to the changing challenges at hand.

Blessed Pope John Paul II’s long death was a tremendous witness to the value of the human person. I hope that Pope Benedict’s resignation will be seen as complementary, not contradictory—witnessing to the fact that the Papacy is more important than the man who holds it.

I think his decision is a recognition that he will not have the strength to finish the many great things he has started, and an act of faith that God will raise up a successor who will bring the seeds sown to fruition. As Chris says, we must pray hard for this.                                        GERALD BONNER


— Have your say at http://www.facebook.com/scostronginfaith. Next question: What are you hoping for in the next Pope?



Youthful thanks for a wonderful Holy Father


For many of our generation, Pope Benedict the XVI is the only Pope we have really known. We were too young or not interested enough to have really paid much attention to Blessed Pope John Paul II and what we do remember of him is most likely to be his illness. So for us, the end of Pope Benedict’s Papacy is perhaps an even greater change than for the wider Church.

For some older Catholics, but especially for the secular world and media, Pope Benedict is ‘conservative,’ but for most of our generation of Catholics, he is simply the Pope. Many of the things that cause consternation among some commentators are from our point of view entirely uncontroversial.

The youthfulness of the 75,000 who attended the Papal Mass at Bellahouston Park stands in stark contrast to the usual turnout at Catholic events. At a time when church congregations are aging, Pope Benedict draws young Catholics, vibrant in their Faith. After his election, many pundits were proclaiming that he would never compare favourably to his predecessor. He has proved them wrong.

Perhaps he has never had the media personality that Blessed Pope John Paul II had, but his warmth and wisdom have reached the hearts and minds of millions. Anyone who has met him in the flesh or has heard him speak can attest to the loving kindness of our German shepherd. But what we discovered above all else was Christ and His Church. Pope Benedict has helped open up the rich depth of Christian doctrine and life to a generation of under-Catechised Catholics, and to agnostics and atheists searching for the Truth.

In a period of great upheaval, Pope Benedict has helped us to refocus on the eternal truths. Society arguably seems to be at the most volatile it has ever been, but the Holy Father has helped set us on a way that will see us through whatever is coming our way. By encouraging us to root our lives in Christ, he has truly been a Holy Father to us.

But if it is on our generation that the Holy Father has had his most profound effect, perhaps it is on us too that his resignation will have its deepest impact: having seen our ‘first Pope’ step aside, will it set a norm for us by which we expect all Popes to ‘retire?’ Perhaps; or perhaps his decision will help separate the office from the personality, and we will accept it as his personal decision. As to whether it was the right decision, all we can really say is that there are pros and cons, and that it is not a decision the Holy Father will have taken lightly.

Pope Benedict’s Papacy has strengthened the Faith of a generation of Catholics. Of course, all is not well, as the Pope himself recently admitted to seminarians, but the foundation is there. And surely the sign that a Pope has succeeded in his role as successor of Peter is that he has strengthened his flock and set them upon the rock. You might argue that many others could have done just the same, but that would be to miss the point. Pope Benedict has been our Pope and our Apostle. Like a parent or a godparent, he has a special place in the hearts of all those of us who came of age in our Faith over the past eight years. So from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, Pope Benedict.


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