Monday, April 25, 2005

Benedict the XVI

As I am writing this essay the new Pope, Benedict XVI, is celebrating his inaugural mass. According to the newscaster, this mass indicates the beginning of this Pope's reign. It has been almost a week since Cardinal Ratzinger was elected to be the successor of St Peter, the Archibishop of Rome, the Holy Father, The Pastor of the Roman Catholic Faith. And by the time several articles and programs would have come out about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who is now Pope Benedict XVI. I would like to focus on two issues that have come up with the ascndancy of Cardinal Ratzinger. The first issue deals with the conservatism of the new Pope. Ratzinger has been described as a conservative's conservative. His critics call him the Pope's "Grand Inquisitor" or God's Rottweiler. Ratzinger was appointed by Pope John Paul II as prefect to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or CDF, one of the oldest and most active congregations of the Roman Curia. Its job was to oversee the Roman Catholic Church doctrine and in the ages past it was known as the congregation in charge of the Inquisition. The congregation was established on the 21st of July 1542 by Pope Paul III, it was then called Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition and its task was to defend and maintain the faith and to examine and proscribe false doctrines and errors. According to JP II, its task was to promote and afegurard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world. Understandably the liberal Catholics seemed to be disappointed with God's Rottweiler as assuming the role of Pope. But I would not be too hasty to pre-judge Benedict XVI. BenedictXVI is a theologian and academician before he became the prefect of the CDF. His choice of name indicates the direction where he wants to take his pontificate. But perhaps we should be aware that he may be referring to not only Benedict XV but also Benedict XIV. Benedict XV is best known for his efforts seek the end to World War I during his time. Benedict XIV, who as Cardinal Lambertini was the head of the Inquisition, believed that the Church needed to use argument and rationality to deal with the world, where Christians were increasing to be a minority. In this spirit, Cardinal Lambertini corresponded continuosly with the lead philospher of the French Enlightenment, Voltaire. This dialogue continued when Cardinal Lambertini became Benedict XIV. And it would seem that Cardinal Ratzinger seems to hold this view of the necessity of dialouge. According to Harold James, author of the book "Europe Reborn" and Princeton University professor, in his article ,"A Pope devoted to dialogue on values", since last year Ratzinger had actively participated in a debate with the leading European secular rationality philosopher Jurgen Habermas. Despite what the critics this Pope might just surprise us. (Post script) I just finished viewing and listening to the first mass of Pope Benedict XVI and his message was not disappointing. Rather than say outright what his platform of government was he explained his ministry with the symbolism of the pallium and the fisherman's ring. The second issue is the preoccupation with the supposed prophecy of St Malachy. St Malachy's prophecy of the pope is a list of 112 short latin phrases supposedly describing each of the Roman Catholic popes and a few anti-popes from Pope Celestine II, who was elected in 1143. The list ends with Petrus Romanus, whose reign as pope will end with in the destruction of the city of Rome and the Last Judgement. The exact motto reads like this - "In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis ciuitas septicollis diruetur, & Iudex tremêdus iudicabit populum suum. Finis." (During the final persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep in many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed, and the terrible Judge will judge his people. The End.) Pope Benedict XVI is supposed to be "Gloria Olivae" the last Pope before Petrus Romanus. Then again those who have interpreted St Malachy's prophecy differ on how to interpret this: First, Petrus Romanus is the last Pope and the world will end when his reign ends Second, Petrus Romanus and Gloria Olivae are the same pope, since these last two popes are not numbered. Third, There may be a number of popes between and after Gloria Olivae and Petrus Romanus As you can see the prophecy differs from interpreter to interpreter. The prophecy was first published in 1595 by a Benedictine historian Arnols de Wyon in his book Lignum Vitae. According to Wyon, the list of future Popes was made in 1139 by the Bishop of Armagh (in Ireland) Saint Malachy when he was summoned by Pope Innocent II. St Malachy allegedly experienced a vision of future popes, which he recorded as a sequence of cryptic Latin phrases. This manuscript was then deposited in the Roman Archive, and thereafter forgotten about until rediscovered in 1590. Interestingly, St Malachy's biographer Bernard of Clairvaux never mentions this. Nor are prophecies mentioned in any record prior to its 1595 publication. Critics further observed the prophecy's pronouncements or mottos fit all the popes elected before the document was first published. The critics further state that whatever whatever similarities exist between tall popes elected after 1595 and their mottos are due to coincidence and the mottos' vagueness, that is to say that the later prophecies are prone to confirmation bias and postdiction: post-shadowing, prediction after the fact and retroactive clairvoyance - the use hindsight to prove that a prediction occured. I have no doubt that friends and people who will read this will have arguments for and against the authencity of the prophecy of Malachy. To me it is irrelevant for consider the what Jesus said when he concluded the parable of the ten bridesmaids, "Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."


Blogger blackshama said...

Pope Benedict XVI is a cat lover. No wonder he spoke before the Italian SPCA when once a Cardinal.

4/26/2005 06:48:00 PM  

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