Posers as Catholics appoint new Pope
By Emmanuel Edukugho, with Cable report
What was supposed to be a graceful exit may be mired in endless enquiries and controversies of what will be the future of the Church after Pope Benedict XV1’s resignation.
For the 1.2 billion faithful of Catholic C hurch, the resignation of the Pope Emeritus came as a surprise and shock as it was the first time a Pope is resigning in over 600 years. Certain aspects of his papacy have been controversial to say the least.
His resignation took effect on Thursday, 28 February, 2013, while Wednesday 27 February was his final day as Pope, bidding farewell to the faithful with over 150,000 people from all parts of the world at St. Peter’s Square, Rome.
Outgoing Pope Benedict XVI came in to the Square in his popemobile clad in a cream suit and moved around in a sombre atmosphere waving, greeting the multitude who had gathered virtually from all natioins in the universe; men, women, old and young, children, some on the shoulders of their parents to catch a last glimpse of the pontiff. The pilgrims responded with emotional excitement, but no clapping, no chanting, all quiet; waving flags in response.
Meeting the general audience at the Square was something usually done inside the Vatican at winter but on this last day, it was done in the open for all. The following day which was 28th February, was the private farewell restricted only to Cardinals, although about 55 cardinals, bishops, Nuns were present at the general audience.
After the tour around the Square, he gave an emotional farewell address and returned to the Vatican, packed his luggages, sorted out documents and personal papers and moved to his summer residence. His papacy ended at 8pm Wednesday.
The event was historic because the world had been used to Popes who died, then mourning, followed by a funeral high mass with world leaders – Presidents, Prime Ministers and powerful political personalities in attendance. This was not like that. This Pope stepped aside.
His resignation was unprecedented, moreso at this season of Lent which calls for penance and spiritual reflection, fasting and prayer.
In retirement, he will be called Pontiff Emeritus. His papal seal will be destroyed and he will now wear simple white cassock, won’t wear red shoes any longer but brown shoes given to him in Mexico, will wear new ring, according to authoritative Vatican source.
Some scandals that plagued the Vatican may have facilitated the decision to resign. There was a report prepared by three top cardinals at the instance of the Pope on conflict and corruption in the Vatican, also including what was termed as inappropriate influence of a gay lobby within the papacy. Vatican officials were believed to be taking kick-backs on contracts and involved in money laundering. Benedict was overwhelmed, frustrated, tired and afraid with a fragile church he can’t control any longer.
The Italian press had reported that Benedict XVI asked three cardinals named as Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi to conduct an internal enquiry after the so-called Vatileaks scandal. The 300-page report was submitted to him in December 2012 which seemed like a wake-up call for his resignation. It was alleged that there was an underground gay network among the top hierarchy of the Catholic Clergy in Vatican and elsewhere. It was believed, he would hand over the report to his successor for action.
The church was struggling to cope with cases of widespread child and sex abuse by priests and staff of religious institutions. There was no adequate measures to properly investigate such cases and prosecute them. It was like a cover-up taking place and so there was bottled up subtle anger and need to open church files for prosecution of the offending clerics.
Even with Pope Benedict XVI apologising for the abuse and meeting victims personally in several countries to pacify them, the abuse still persisted.
Before his election as Pope in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as he was called, was the head of Vatican’s Doctrinal Department for many years.
So observers claimed he knew about these abuses and other terrible sex scandals rocking the church. However, he lacked administrative will to deal with the problem.
In a church hiding almost everything, he understood what the problems were but lacked the courage to ask the bishops to open the archives and the impending cases. For example, in his own parish in a city in Germany, it was discovered there were 300 cases of sex crimes. If this is replicated in parishes and archdioces across the world, one would be amazed at the number of sex cases being hidden.
Even in the Vatican itself, a reliable source hinted that a Monsignor had love affairs, but was hidden.
Homosexuality is rife in the church, but there is a massive cover-up amongst the clergy.
Said a Jesuit priest: “To deny this is to deny the fact and reality, but most priests respect their vows.”
About five days ago, a top Catholic cleric in Britain, Bishop of Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned in the wake of allegation by some priests against him for inappropriate behaviour some years ago. O’Brien said he is not coming to the conclave while the Vatican has accepted his resignation.
It was damaging to the church.
His response was thus:
“I will respond to the will of God for me and the Catholic church.”
The British Cardinal denied the allegation. He participated in the last conclave which elected Pope Benedict XVI.
US Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for many years shielded some priests accused of sexual abuse, posting them out to avoid interrogation. Cardinal Mahony said he will be coming to the conclave although he had been publicly rebuked in USA and told not to participate in the election of the next Pope.
According to a former Catholic Friar, Mark Dawd, the issue of gay priests in the church was described as “ticking time bomb”, alleging that 50% of those coming into the prieshood are gay themselves and that homosexuality is massively represented in the Catholic Church, which is manifestly at variance with the teaching of the church.
A writer, Mary Elizabeth Williams, speaking on CNN, acknowledged that the church is passing through extreme crisis as never before, and so something has to change. She wants more pressure to be kept on the church for change.
“It’s about forward looking, love, simplicity, compassion, forgiveness. No matter what, I still remain catholic. I believe in the virtues of simplicity, forgiveness, elimination of injustice.”
On who is to be next Pope, she said he could be conservative or progressive, but change is necessary.
Whether women can be priest?
“Unless by chance. It is still long way. There are girls as altar servers. The posture of Vatican had been dogmatic, backward looking.”
This is rough time for the Catholic church.
While Rev Fr. Albert Cutie acknowledged that Pope Benedict XVI was sick, frail, he said that was not 100% reason for his resignation.
“What had been happening in the Vatican are more than what meet the eyes. Strange that the Pope just walked away. There had been financial mismanagement.”
An Emeritus Archbishop, US-born Cardinal Theodara Mc Carrick, has said in a TV interview that celibacy was important in the life of the priest, nature of giving ourselves (priests) fully to God.
“I accept there is crisis in the church. Also in a world where there are persecution of Christians. There are mistakes by leaders everywhere, so too are mistakes by the clergy in the church.”
A seasoned cleric who had participated in conclaves with an insight on how voting is done, Cardinal Mc Carrick said the key moment is when the ballot is given to you to cast your vote. A voting carinal will say:
“I call on Jesus Christ to guide me rightly. I think this is the man God wants to lead the church. Let me pick the right man.” According to him, the election of a new Pope could go to any of the cardinals and no continent is more favoured. There are many bishops and cardinals from developing world who can become Pope.