Pope Benedict XVI: ‘A Service to Joy’
CINCINNATI—On April 19 of 2005, Catholics worldwide met their new pope when Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger walked to the edge of the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Reaction
was mixed among the thousands in the crowd that day: Many cheered in delight, others were less exuberant
and some were simply unhappy. Almost a year into his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI has surprised many Catholics
and members of other religions.
The life of the pope, as well as an analysis of his first six months as pastor to the world’s
Catholics, is the basis for St. Anthony Messenger’s February cover story, “The Emerging
Reign of Pope Benedict XVI: ‘A Service to Joy.’” Author Robert Mickens, who lived
in Rome and who now writes about the Vatican for The Tablet of London, delves into Benedict’s
humble childhood, his early career and the road that led him to the papacy. After January 23, the article
will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.
Many Catholics feared the worst when Ratzinger was elected pope because, as prefect of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, he earned the nickname “God’s Rottweiler.” He proved
to be a fierce and conservative defender of the Church and its laws. Yet nearly a year into his papacy,
Benedict has shown himself to be a patient and understanding listener and more gracious than his detractors
predicted. “At this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task.
How will I be able to do it?” the pope asked on April 24 at his installation Mass in St. Peter’s
Enormous indeed: Pope Benedict inherits a Church that faces many internal problems, such as a dwindling
number of priests, a lack of understanding of Church teaching, catechetical illiteracy and polarization
among believers. Curing the ills of an ailing Church will not be easy for the 78-year-old theologian.
The road ahead for the pope is unclear, yet a few outcomes are almost assured. There will be fewer
papal documents under his leadership. He will also have a more open relationship with the world’s
bishops, something many of them have said they want. And Benedict will likely guide the Church with
positive reinforcement, a policy he has utilized over the last several months.
Pope Benedict is full of surprises: Few people would have predicted that by the end of September he
would have had extended meetings with people on opposite sides of the theological spectrum: Hans Küng,
his former teaching colleague, and with the head of the Society of St. Pius X, a schismatic Catholic
Giving further evidence of his humanity and spirituality, in October, Pope Benedict met with a group
of young children on the day of their First Communion. “I hope that for all of you,” he
said, “the First Communion you have received in this Year of the Eucharist will be the beginning
of a lifelong friendship with Jesus, the beginning of a journey together, because in walking with Jesus
we do well and life becomes good.”
granted to reprint this release.