God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Farewell to Pope Benedict XVI

“Why did you write not about the resignation of the pope?” I was asked frequently  – you have a blog as a priest, they argue and it must be of concern for me what happens in the church on the top-level of hierarchy.

Well, the are right, it is of my interest and I follow the events unfolding very closely. But there is so much written about the pope and the resignation and the consequences for the church – and most of them are clever people; so what should I as a simple priest say to an event commented from almost all angels of life.

Well, for those who are interested:
I was not surprised, Benedict XVI had always his own mindset and he remained the theologian and professor and in my humble view never took over by heart all the demands and challenges of being a pope. This was and is not his world. Studies and books and deep thinking is different from ruling, being almost seen above human beings, having to deal with politics, human failures, ordinary administration work and demands from all sides.
I guess this is anyhow for an elderly person too much to carry in our days. So for me, he made the right decision to step down after realizing that he has not the energy to deal with it all. I take my hat off that he tried, but my feelings are somehow ambivalent. Can I take on a duty I know I cannot fill out completely? Yes, people grow with their “job description” and this applies also to a pope in a certain way. But I cannot judge it, that is between him and the Lord.

I was not surprised but I believe his eight years changed the papacy for ever. His interviews about the use of condoms, his “Regensburger” comments on Islam, his dealing with the Pius X Society and the Latin mass,  his resignation – it all changes history and if you hear some comments of bishops and cardinals after the announcement – there are suddenly some nuances in comments which are very surprising to me. It somehow seems that the church has woken up in the 21st century realizing that the train of time has gone with such a speed that it is time to catch up and face the challenges of this new era. But on the other side one sees people  in the hierarchy still believing that the train of time has to be reversed and send back to its origin. The church is somehow split by now – not only between those who are called “conservative” and “progressive” but also those who think “European” and those thinking “global”.

Disappointment on his stance regarding Africa and HIV / AIDS – yes, I have to admit there is a lot of it. But on the other hand: Did we really expect him to change the teaching which seems to be for him one of the pillars to fight relativism, his beloved subject. And anyhow: change does come from the Holy Spirit who is part of the church and the world and who is not confined to any single person. Change comes through each and every single calling in this world and we should never expect all answers from the person occupying the throne of Peter. The community of the bishops and within this as primus inter pares the Bishop of Rome and the sensus fidei  – there the future of the church is lying and the hope for a recovery from the crisis we are in.

I am sure he tried his very best – and I am also sure he is humble enough to know that there have been made mistakes. Contra all assurance from him I believe that he was a lonely man in the Vatican, trusting only a handful of people and therefore sometimes lacking the possibilities to see all sides of a subject he was considering and deciding. But that might be the case for all high-profile people giving up their freedom for a calling, a duty or even for more power.

The only thing I put a real question mark is the ordination of his secretary to become a bishop. He did that in the knowledge that he steps down and somehow it feels wrong to me. In a world, where favoritism and nepotism regarding those supporting one seems to be normal in politics and economics there shouldn’t be a taste of it in the Vatican. For me anyhow a bishop is for the people and I cannot see why there are so many bishops in Rome in administration. Cardinal is a title and not necessarily attached to someone being e a bishop. So for me, it empties generally the meaning of the word “bishop” somehow.

So what do I make of the time of Benedict XVI – it was on one hand a tough time for somebody believing that changes are necessary into the future and not into the past – but on the other hand God is writing nicely even on uneven lines – so I hope and pray that the next pope is fit mentally and physically to face the challenges of the time and to convert the papacy and the administration in a way fit for the next centuries to come, proclaiming the value of a human being and all creation and that all and everybody is loved unconditional by God. For Benedict XVI I hope for a peaceful life as he wishes to live now and enough time for his studies and music and whatever he likes to do in his retirement.


Filed under: Catholic Church, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being a priest…

Since I picked up the topic “HIV and AIDS” in the context of being a priest, life became more difficult. Touching and questioning the moral teaching did not go well with the authorities and even being outspoken about it and publishing my concerns, experiences and questions lead in late nineties to the fact, that I could not be a chaplain to a German-speaking Catholic Community anymore. obedience hurrying ahead and being scared of the mighty Vatican – induced with some jealousy at times brought an end to it – and let me to pick up the pieces and – being lucky – brought me to the position I am now in. And I honestly cannot complain as it gives me all opportunities to work in my beloved South Africa and with and amongst those less fortune.

But I have the feeling that the atmosphere in my church is changing. The unfortunate attempt of Benedict XVI to get the Pius XII Society on board, the permission to more mass services of the old order as the exceptional rule brought warfare into the church – instead of achieving more peace and stability within the church, we are in a constant battle between Latin and mother tongue, between a salvation only within the RC church and a Holy Spirit who is able to work where he wants to work. The attempt of the Vatican to be inclusive – at least for those living in the past and refusing to come out and face modern life – is for a normal priest dealing with everyday’s sorrows and plights a situation not asked for and making the pastoral work more difficult. Reading the pamphlets and attacks of right wingers in the church on mainly European websites make me feel sick and tired. The church has come a long way in its tradition and in its way to comfort and proclaim the love of God to those living today. Tradition is a way, not a status quo. I am not sure what drives the Vatican, the pope and others to bring the church in turbulent waters without any need or necessity. But they should be aware that in doing so they make the life of priests not easier, they divide energy into directions without any need or positive outcome and they force us to focus on topics put to rest a long time ago.

The way of the church is forward, God calls us to a future, not back into the past and I hope and pray that this storm of arguments, attacks and unwarranted battle is over soon. And that we can concentrate again on a liturgy which has a meaning to most people of God, a way forward answering the questions of today’s faithful in a way understandable for them. Let those hanging on to old traditions be as they are – God does not mind diversity and if they think that salvation only happens within their church – so it be.. They are then happy and we can continue to serve the people without having an extra battle field within the church.

Filed under: General, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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