CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 December 2018

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Pope Benedict defends his retirement

VATICAN (Agencies): Retired Pope Benedict XVI has expressed displeasure with the way Cardinal Walter Brandmuller of Germany, former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, publicly criticised his stepping down as pontiff, and he also defended taking the title pope emeritus.
 
In two private letters, the retired pope defended the way he handled his resignation and warned the cardinal of the negative impact his public comments could have, CNS reported.
The German newspaper, Bild, obtained copies of the letters written in November 2017, but blurred Cardinal Brandmuller’s name in photos. The New York Times named the cardinal and also published translated excerpts from the letters on September 20.
 
Robert Moynihan, writing in Inside the Vatican, suggests that “the letters have been ‘leaked,’ and no one has yet revealed who leaked them, to whom, when, or, most of all, why.”
 
He writes, “Some people are looking in these letters for evidence that Pope Benedict may have felt ‘under pressure’ to resign the papacy.”
 
He asks “Why?” pointing out that “Benedict himself said he took his decision after much deep prayer, and in complete freedom.”
 
Moynihan notes that Cardinal Brandmuller “felt Benedict’s decision was one that could in some way harm the Church, perhaps—against Benedict’s will and expectations—undermining the authority of the papal office, perhaps exposing future Popes to calls for their resignation as they became old, or as they took difficult decisions which might arouse vigorous opposition and... calls for resignation.”
 
CNS reported that the first letter was a response to a comment Cardinal Brandmuller made in a lengthy interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published on 28 October 2017.
 
Asked what the cardinal thought about the title the retired pope took on, the cardinal responded that the figure of a pope emeritus had never existed in the Church’s history and having a pope “withdrawing now and overturning a 2,000-year tradition totally astounded not only us cardinals.”
 
Referring to that portion of the interview, the Pope Benedict wrote that Cardinal Brandmuller should certainly be aware that other popes had—though rarely—stepped down.
 
The retired pope wrote that by using the title pope emeritus, he would be away from the media spotlight and make it thoroughly clear there was just one pope.
 
“If you know of a better way, and therefore think that you can judge the (title) chosen by me, please tell me,” the retired pope wrote.
 
In Inside the Vatican, Moynihan writes that Cardinal Brandmueller wrote back, a bit apologetically, saying he had intended no offense.
 
In the second letter, the pope acknowledged the cardinal’s response and said he was grateful that it seemed the cardinal would no longer discuss his resignation in public.
 
“I can very well understand the deep-seated pain that the end of my papacy has caused you and many others,” Pope Benedict wrote. “However, for some people and—it seems to me—also for you, the pain has turned into an anger that no longer merely concerns my resignation, but increasingly also my person and my papacy as a whole.”
 
With such an attitude, he wrote, his whole papacy “is now being devalued and conflated with sadness about the situation in which the Church currently finds itself.”
 
Cardinal Brandmuller had already postulated the idea that an emeritus pope figure could threaten Church unity in his essay, Renuntiatio papae: Some Historical Reflections, published online in July 2016.
 
The cardinal is among four cardinals who, in September 2016, publicly released a critical set of questions, known as dubia (doubt), asking Pope Francis for clarification about his teaching on the family.
 
Pope Benedict, a noted theologian, had described his decision to be the first pope to resign in almost 600 years as the result of intense prayer and an examination of his conscience before God.
 
In the last two days of his pontificate, he pledged obedience to his successor and noted that he was leaving the “active exercise of the (Petrine) ministry.” 
 
While promising to remain “hidden” in retirement, he also said he was “not returning to private life” but would belong “always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church” and “remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s precincts.”

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