The Next Mercy Pope?

by David Came

(Article appeared in Summer 2005 issue of Marian Helper)

When Pope Benedict XVI gave his first message on April 20, the day after his election, he made some remarkable statements about The Divine Mercy and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

"In these hours, two contrasting sentiments coexist in my spirit," he said. "On one hand, a sense of inadequacy and of human anxiety before the Universal Church, because of the responsibility that was entrusted to me yesterday as Successor of the Apostle Peter in this See of Rome."

Pope Benedict began by expressing how inadequate he felt after being elected Pope.
"On the other hand," he continued, "I feel very intensely in myself a profound gratitude to God who ... does not abandon His flock."

Divine Mercy is the specific reason for this gratitude of Pope Benedict's. "Beloved, this profound gratitude for a gift of The Divine Mercy prevails in my heart despite everything," he said. "And I consider it, in fact, as a special grace obtained for me by my venerable predecessor, John Paul II."

In very tender and personal language, he then describes John Paul II's guiding spirit for his new papacy, "I seem to feel his strong hand gripping mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and to hear his words addressed at this moment particularly to me: 'Be not afraid!'"

Perhaps these words on The Divine Mercy are best considered in light of some other words spoken by the man we now know as Pope Benedict XVI when he presided at the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II on April 8 as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals.

In the funeral homily, then Cardinal Ratzinger said of Pope John Paul II:
He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of Divine Mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil "is ultimately Divine Mercy" (Memory and Identity, pages 60-61). And reflecting on the assassination attempt, [Pope John Paul II] said:

In sacrificing Himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love. ... It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good.

Cardinal Ratzinger's homily went on to explain how Pope John Paul II lived this 'order of love' himself, especially as he suffered in his final days. "Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful."

At the funeral, the Cardinal was telling the whole world that John Paul, through his life, taught the Church and the world that Divine Mercy is greater than evil and human suffering. Now, as Pope Benedict XVI, he is telling us that this special gift of The Divine Mercy prevailed in his own heart at his election as Pope despite his own human inadequacies and weaknesses.


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