"Habemus Papem", "We Have a Pope!" the Cardinal announced.
Pope Benedict XVI stepped forward onto the balcony overlooking St. Peters Square calling himself " ...a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." The applause was uproarious. The joy filled not only that Square but the hearts of millions throughout the entire world who had prayed for this moment. He continued " ...that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the risen Lord, trusting in his permanent help, we go forward."
Then the questions began. All of them related to one singular question "Where will he lead us?"
Morning papers and television commentaries were besieged with alleged "answers". They ranged from ecstatic commentary to morose complaint, depending, as if often the case, on the speaker or writers positions on the so called "hot button" issues that the dominant media culture seems to be obsessed about.
However, like his beloved predecessor, the late Servant of God Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI has not approached his ministry to the Church and the world in that way. In fact, he approaches the world in an entirely different way. His way is to walk as a pilgrim along the ever ancient but ever new way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as lived, loved, proclaimed and taught by the Catholic Church for over two millennia. He, much like his predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, cannot be fit into the tired labels that so many incessantly try to fit him into. He is simply a faithful Catholic Christian.
He is also "Holy Father" to the flock of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
I must admit, I was overcome with joy, gratitude and profound hope for the future when I heard the news that day. I remember the events of those days vividly. I was visiting with a priest friend in Richmond, Virginia. We were immersed in an intense conversation when another friend of mine, a Bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, an ecclesial community not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, called me on my cell phone. "Have you heard?" he asked, "Habemus Papem, We have a Pope!" he proclaimed, hardly able to contain his own joy.
Who would have guessed that three years later, my Bishop friend would have left his ministry as a Protestant Pastor in order to follow the irresistible invitation of the Holy Spirit to come into the full communion of the Catholic Church. He did so with his beloved wife Sandra, on November 12, 2006 at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia. Now, Randy Sly serves as the Washington Bureau Chief for Catholic Online and he will cover this historic visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
And I now live and serve the parish of that same priest friend in Richmond, Virginia, Father James Kauffmann. I moved to be closer to Washington D.C. in order to complete my coursework toward the PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America, one of the stops along this Pilgrim Pope's visit to America. Like so many millions, my life has been profoundly changed by his ministry and the ministry of his beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
But on that historic day, Father Kauffmann and I immediately turned the television on and, with the entire world, witnessed history. One day later, I realized just how significant it was that a Christian, then from another Christian community, had called to tell me, a Catholic Deacon, the "we" have a Pope. I believe it was only the beginning of the movement of the Holy Spirit, under this pontificate, which is advancing a coming full communion of the whole Christian Church. Pope Benedict XVI has stepped right into the trajectory walked with the Orthodox Church by his predecessor, John Paul II, but has advanced the hope, stepping it into a dialogue which may soon provide a vehicle for full communion.
What occurred in those momentous weeks, when Pope John Paul II passed to the Lord and Pope Benedict assumed the Chair of Peter, was nothing short of miraculous. First, the eyes of the entire world had turned to Rome while the giant, John Paul the Great, who had taught us all how to live, showed us how to embrace suffering with selfless love and offer it in union with Jesus Christ for the world. Will we ever forget his last great message, given without words, when he stepped up to the window and was unable to even speak? Yet, we all knew what he was saying. It was beyond words. He had been reduced to love. His last blessing to us all also reduced the world to tears. Then, he showed us how to welcome death. He demonstrated the truth of the Christian claim by greeting death as a friend, the doorway to the fullness of communion with the eternal God.
In an event of historic magnitude, through the use of the very "new technologies" that Pope John Paul embraced and had written about several months before he went, in his own last words "home to his ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Pope in America News
Support our Sponsors