Rome (AsiaNews) - Four days after the announcement that shocked the Church and the world, the interest of Christians and the international media in the resignation of Benedict XVI is showing no sign of subsiding, although with vastly different results.
Among the faithful, bishops and laity, it is increasingly clear that the pope's decision to step down from the Petrine ministry to Christ and the Church is an act of love for both. It is not dictated by a desire to "abdicate", to "final have time for his own interests", but his passion for mission and that the Church have renewed stimulus and strength. His recognition of failing strength of his body, as he nears almost eighty-six years of age, is not simply a question of having "reached the age limit." As he said, his decision was driven by the need to "preach the Gospel" "in today's world, subject to rapid change and agitated by issues of great importance for the life of faith." His decision to resign is thus motivated by an acute a missionary zeal for the Church, that it may find new ways, new faces and new energy to devote to the work that absorbed him throughout his life: bringing Christ close to man and above all to people man who do not know him or who even despise him.
Theologians explain that Christ "renounced" his divine title to become man, to die on the Cross (Philippians 2: 6-11), the missionaries, especially those who are in distant countries, "renounce" their culture to penetrate into the fibers of other cultures and get close to other peoples. Benedict XVI on the back of his momentum for the proclamation of faith in today's world has "renounced" the title of pope.
In laying bare his offer to Christ and the Church he will continue to work for mission, but in a very special way, which is that of contemplation. In the announcement of his decision to the Cardinals, he said: "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering." The suffering of his weakened body and cloistered prayer he is about to enter, will be as effective for the Church as his word, his travels, his publications, his active witness.
In taking this step, he has become a master for all Christians, priests, bishops, cardinals, who consider their active role in certain tasks, duties and organizations "essential". With his choice of life Pope Benedict XVI is telling us that effectiveness of our existence lies our placing ourseleves completely in Christ's hands, the true guarantee of all fruitfulness. He himself, in many homilies and speeches reminded us of the fruitfulness of Little flower Teresa, the cloistered Carmelite who became the patron saint of missions: a contemplative, a model of the sharpest and most universal of Christian activities.
With his choice taken "before God" Benedict XVI has become an even greater "pontifex", or bridge between God and man. In this final step, so extreme and so very courageous, we are convinced even further that Christ is present in the life of man, capable of transforming the weakness of old age - both eschewed and hidden in our time - into a sacrament of love for God, for each other and the world.
Perhaps it is the fact that his choice is in its very essence so close to God that has rendered so many media outlets coverage of the news so shallow and dull by contrast. Without a sensitivity to this vertical dimension, which is human and divine, the Pope's decision is just another chapter in the life of a man who is retiring, the result of exhaustion from battles between warring factions within the Church, the shrewd and crafty move to "condition" elections in the Church and in the world. This world seems incapable of understanding that this decision is for a greater love ("Simon, do you love me more than these?" - John. 21, 15) and therefore the mass media has no option but to drag it down to its own level, to a pragmatism of mean interests, to a politicking that fills us with satisfaction and despair. The media's haste to find a sub-plot, reveal hidden secrets, point to "obvious" failures is a desperate attempt to dismiss, trivialize, delete the Christ that the Pope's gesture has once again rendered loving and close at hand.
But perhaps in this iconoclastic attempt to drown the beauty of his testimony in the usual mud, there is also a secret hope: that in the midst of this materialism, relativism and ideological presumption that there has shrivelled our souls, the truth can exist: "And everything conspires to silencing of us, like the silence of / shame, perhaps, like the silence of an unspeakable hope. "
(R.M. Rilke, Duino Elegies, II).
Moreover, even the pope, who is mocked and mourned for his failures, is similar, very similar to Jesus Christ, who defeated the hatred of the world as he was nailed to the cross.