New Pope's Name May Be Sign of Focus on Evangelizing Europe

AUSTIN RUSE

As a faithful Catholic I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am with the elevation of Joseph Ratzinger to the Chair of Peter. Pope Benedict XVI will be a powerful and important Pope. Please, everyone who reads this, of whatever faith, pray for this man who just had the weight of the world placed upon his shoulders.

Pope Benedict XVI

The German cardinal with the charge of defending Church orthodoxy for the last 23 years was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church today by the College of Cardinals. The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, know for his faithful adherence to Church teaching as well as his influential role at the Second Vatican Council, emerged as the new Pope on the famous Vatican balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after it was announced he would take the name of Benedict XVI. Culture of Life Foundation board member Father Joseph Fessio told CNN that the key to the name was not his predecessor, Pope Benedict XIV, but St. Benedict, the co-patron of Europe and the founder of western monasticism.

Interpreting the name as a nod to St. Benedict would indicate that the new pope would make defending the embattled faith in Europe central to his mission just as St. Benedict and the monastic movement he led was essential to the spread of Christianity on the Continent in the sixth century. Some time around 500 AD, St. Benedict left his studies in Rome because of the widespread corruption there and eventually formed a monastic community at Subiaco, 40 miles from the city. Benedictine monastic communities became centers of intense scholarship in Europe and are responsible for preserving and developing much of the Western tradition on the Continent, a point the Pope will likely want to emphasize to the new European Community which refuses to acknowledge Europe's Christian roots.

The name could also be taken as a tribute to Pope Benedict XV who led the Church from 1914 to 1922 and oversaw the promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger helped produce the second edition of the Code of Cannon Law. Following World War I, Turkish Muslims erected a statue of Pope Benedict XV in their homeland for his work with refugees during the war, a sign perhaps that Pope Benedict XVI will pursue peaceful relations with Muslim countries.

Dissenting Catholics have sought a silver lining in the election by noting that Benedict XV formally ended the Church's attack on modernism. Others noted that the new Pope was old, 78, and therefore might have little time to make his mark. But most dissenters responded immediately with anger. Andrew Sullivan on his blog, www.andrewsullivan.com, practically called the news an indication that a Church split was imminent. "It would be hard to over-state the radicalism of this decision. It's not simply a continuation of John Paul II. It's a full-scale attack on the reformist wing of the church. The swiftness of the decision and the polarizing nature of this selection foretell a coming civil war within Catholicism. The space for dissidence, previously tiny, is now extinct. And the attack on individual political freedom is just beginning," Sullivan wrote.

Following the announcement web sites with articles on St. Benedict, Benedict XV and Ratzinger were bombarded with traffic leading to sluggish surfing. An unofficial site devoted to Cardinal Ratzinger, www.ratzingerfanclub.com, was so deluged with hits that it soon crashed. The site's owner, Christopher Blosser, commented on the crash on the popular Catholic blog, Open Book. "As you can imagine, the entire world wants to know who this Cardinal is (if they don't already). I'm working on upgrading the bandwidth, but the changes may not go into effect for 24 hours, so you might have to wait to access the site. I apologize. I really should have anticipated this. But then, who knew?" he said.

Prior to entering the Catholic hierarchy, the German-born Pope was a well regarded theologian with expertise was on St. Augustine and was more comfortable in academia than the corridors of the Vatican bureaucracy. Though often labeled a "hardline conservative," Pope Benedict was one of the leading voices for reform at Vatican II. Under his years of service to Pope John Paul II he tried several times to resign but his service was so valued by the former pontiff that he would not allow him to leave his Vatican post.

  

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

"New Pope's Name May Be Sign of Focus on Evangelizing Europe." Culture & Cosmos Volume 2, Number 37 (April 19, 2005).

Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

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