In this booklet, well-known Vatican inside observer John L. Allen, Jr., drawing from the writings and speeches of the Holy Father, shares the ten most important things that Pope Be... Read more
Photo: Fr. Mark Baron, MIC
All eyes were on Pope Benedict XVI during the closing Mass on Sunday. In fact, some 400,000 people crowded Randwick Racecourse for the closing Mass, making it the biggest gathering ever in Australia.
The Papal Transformation of Benedict XVI
By Fr. Mark Baron, MIC (Jul 23, 2008)
I have mentioned in a couple of my updates from World Youth Day '08 how moved I've been by the Holy Father's presence. Well, it happened again this past Sunday, at the closing Mass of the six-day event.
It wasn't so much Pope Benedict XVI's grandfatherly like challenge to the youth during his homily, or his good natured laughter when the wind ruffled his papers. So what was it then? It occurred to me what it was late Sunday afternoon when the Mass was long over with and I was walking down the street. I caught a glimpse on TV of the news reports about the Pope's Mass. It was there on the TV screen. I saw the Pope kissing babies! I couldn't believe it! What I couldn't believe about it was that he looked like a natural. I'm not talking politician here. I'm talking JPII. It was like he was picking up where the late John Paul II left off.
This confirmed my sense that Pope Benedict is not the same man who was elected to the Chair of Peter back in 2005. No, it seems the papacy is transforming him. Even the secular media in Sydney picked up on this. One headline from the Sydney Morning Herald said, "From Theologian to Pope of the People." A quote from that article reads:
In the past 7 days the Pope, a man of undisputed fierce intellect and steadfast theological position, has gradually allowed a different part of his personality to emerge. At last he has provided a glimpse of the man behind the mitre.
I guess this goes to show that even the Pope, himself, can change and, indeed, that he is even called to change. For the Pope is a man on the journey along with the rest of us. I am sure God had another motive in mind when it came to handing him the keys to the Kingdom besides his personal qualifications to assume such a weighty responsibility. To understand what that is, we must remember that the Lord never does anything without our own sanctification in mind first. That is first on the list of priorities when it comes to God's call in our lives. He calls us where we can grow the most. It's usually where He thinks we can grow, not where we think. It is up to us, however, to respond to that call.
It seems that this is what the Pope is doing. He is simply responding to the call to holiness that is wrapped up in his call to the papacy. This is what is changing him.
I remember reading an interview with Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua before he retired from leading the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The reporter asked him if he was changed by his time as a cardinal and archbishop. His response is worth noting. He said in effect, when you embrace and fulfill your responsibilities it can't help but change you. This is what is happening to Benedict XVI. He has stepped out from his comfort zone as a theologian, and he is embracing his pastoral role. Yes, Pope Benedict XVI is becoming a shepherd at heart, and he is doing it according to his natural style, which is quiet and humble. Now it makes sense why hearing his voice moved me last Thursday at the arrival and welcome of the Holy Father to Sydney. Indeed, I was hearing the voice of the Vicar of Christ, the voice of a shepherd.
Read other stories from Fr. Mark's World Youth Day '08 adventure.