Habemus Papem

Benedict XVI

When Pope Benedict resigned a few weeks ago it sent shock waves around the Catholic World.

Not since Pope Celestine V in 1294 had a Pope resigned. I spoke with Professor Salvador Ryan of St. Patricks College Mayooth whose specialty is Ecclesiastical History, who reflected on these events.‘In 1294 the Papacy had already been vacant for over two years as the cardinals were divided as to who should succeed to the Papal throne. A saintly and other-worldly hermit named Pietro da Morrone soon had enough of this and, from his mountain retreat in southern Italy, wrote an impassioned letter to the Cardinals’. His letter made them question their actions and they soon wrote back to say they had indeed elected a new pope. Him!

Pietro Da Morrone rode into Rome on a donkey and cut a strange sight among his palatial surroundings. He took the name Celestine V. But with little political experience he, not surprisingly, lasted but a few months. He resigned and attempted to go back to obscurity in his mountain hideaway. But his replacement feared that someone would attempt to have him instated as an antipope and had him imprisioned. He died nine months later.

We’ve yet to see if Pope Francis has similar plans for Ex Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is, by all accounts, a humble man and only became a priest aged 42. He joined the Jesuits and was a frequent visitor in AIDS centres, prisons and in the poor areas of Buenos Aires. Those that know him spoke of a friendly fellow who took the bus and made his own meals. But since his election he has been plauged by rumors that he aided and abetted a viscious dictator and by reports that he has questionable views on both women and homosexuality.

On the morning after he was elected Pope Francis went to a local Church in Rome on his own and dropped into a local school. On Holy Thursday the Pope visited a juvenile detention centre and washed the feet of 12 of the inmates.

Hopefully his actions are a better reflection of his character than his words.

By Joan Mitchell