“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Since Jesus spoke these words long ago, we have maintained the tradition of placing one person to be the leader of the Church here on earth. And though other religions may have come and gone, the Church has prevailed. Now with the Pope’s announcement to resign, it seems the whole world is drawn to the news surrounding the Catholic Church. Everyone, Catholic and not, seems to be intrigued by what will happen next. Some are just interested, others seem determined to find scandal within the stories. I have read multiple articles questioning the Pope’s decision and questioning if the Church will survive. I sometimes wonder to myself why is it that the Catholic Church always seems to be under attack by someone? Every little thing seems to be turned into a massive scandal by someone and any mistake that someone makes within the Church is immediately made out to be s mistake not by that person, but by the Church itself. Perhaps the Church comes under attack because it is something worth attacking. Maybe there is something so holy and truthful about the Catholic Church that evil forces will try anything to knock it down and attempt to turn people away from it. Though the pope may step down and it is surely not the norm, the Church will remain steadfast and true.
Last week I was asked who my choice was for the next Pope. The question took me by surprise. Sure I had seen the articles of “front-runners” for Pope, but I honestly had not considered choosing one over another. I think when we talk about the election of the new Pope, many people associate it with any other public election; mayor, governor, president, etc. Especially with the election of the President of the United States in such recent memory. The election of a new Pope is not like electing a President. In electing a President, you have people of all faiths, all creeds, putting in their choices. You have negativity and lies smearing the campaigns. A candidate campaigns and is chosen for their promise of how they will live up to the standards and expectations of the people.
In choosing a new Pope, there is no campaigning. It is not a search for someone who will compromise to make everyone happy. It is not about appointing someone who will make the people happy. In electing a Pope, it is not up to the people. In truth, it is not even up to the Cardinals who will cast their votes. Although they may physically carry out the task of voting, they are called to allow the intercession of the Holy Spirit to guide them. It is the Holy Spirit who appoints the next Pope. The Pope is not chosen because of his ability to make everyone happy and conform to society. The Pope has the task of remaining true to the faith even when it goes against the path society wants us to take, even if it makes people unhappy. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will guide the Cardinals as they meet and pray to appoint the next successor to Peter as head of the God’s Church here on earth.
I for one am humbled by Pope Benedict’s decision and have great respect for him. I think it is wonderful that God was able to work through him and I am confident He will do the same with the next Pope, whoever that may be.