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 Blooming Stars

Papal Dynamics – 1

            When I wrote in early January 2013 that it is time for Pope Benedict XVI to consider resigning if he is physically and mentally feeble so that his cronies would not govern the Catholic Church in his name, I did not in my wildest imagination think that the Pope would take the very bold step of resignation so soon on February 11, 2013. His decision to resign in my mind is the best decision he made in his life. In this article I want to briefly high-light some important factors of interest in the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI and mention some salient factors in the election of a new pope. As a Jesuit professor in a leading institution (Jnana Deep Vidyapeeth (JDV) – Institute of Philosophy and Religion – Pune, India) in the world that trained selected candidates for Catholic priesthood I had a deep interest in the doings of popes.

            Besides as a solemnly professed Jesuit I had taken a special vow of obedience to the pope. Progressive Jesuits did not view Pope John Paul II favorably as he was very conservative. His take- over of the Jesuits after a bad stroke Pedro Arrupe, the superior general of the Jesuits, suffered by appointing his own men in a stubborn autocratic authoritarian style was unprecedented. The Jesuit professors at Pune including me expressed our displeasure in a letter addressed to the Pope. It was very obvious that Pope John Paul II was not very fond of the Jesuits especially in the way faith was more and more looked at by Jesuits in the context of social justice in the world. Pope John XXIII and Fr. Pedro Arrupe (the Superior General of the Jesuits is also known as the Black Pope, because of his importance as the head of a powerful world-wide religious order in the Catholic Church, and because he wore a black cassock) were two holy and visionary men of the last century who strived to bring the Catholic Church into the modern world.

            And the two men who stalled progress in the Church after the Vatican Council II were Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, the right hand man of Pope John Paul II. I think the way John Paul II treated Arrupe also contributed to his stroke. By the way the job of the Jesuit General was also life-long until Arrupe. I might also add that Pope John Paul’s action in taking over the Society of Jesus also contributed to my leaving the Jesuits. Besides I would not be able to criticize the pope and write what I am writing now if I were a Jesuit.

            It must be said that Pope John Paul II did well in loosening the strangle-hold of communism in his native Poland. But he did not do anything to ameliorate the situation in Latin America by supporting liberation theology that had a bearing on the plight of the poor Catholic peasants and the natives crushed by rich callous Catholic land-owners and evil right-wing dictators. So much so Fr. Leonardo Boff, a Franciscan liberation theologian in Brazil called Pope Benedict XVI a religious terrorist. Pope John Paul II created a fortress of conservatives and ultra-conservatives such as Opus Dei men and Cardinals such as Ratzinger around himself.

            He even canonized the founder of the Opus Dei. He did not undertake any substantive and meaningful reform in the face of enormous changes and challenges facing the Catholic Church. Of the 115 Cardinals who came to the conclave to elect a new pope all, except two cardinals, of whom one was Cardinal Ratzinger, were appointed by Pope John Paul II. When Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005, the Time magazine quipped that the new Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger, was as close to cloning John Paul II as the Catholic Church could get. At that time I wrote that I did not expect Pope Benedict to do anything remarkable in his pontificate. A papabilis (a word in Latin meaning a person who is capable of being elected as a pope; a person who is talked of as a future of pope), Jesuit Cardinal, Archbishop of Milan, Carlos Martini, much popular than Ratzinger in the very same conclave Ratzinger was elected to be Pope, said in an interview two weeks before his death at the end of August 2012 that the Catholic Church was two hundred years behind times. Cardinal Martini’s scathing criticism of the way the Church is run is very poignant.


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