The whole world mourns when the news broke regarding Pope John Paul II’s death. It cannot be denied that his contribution to the Church orthodoxy has influenced a lot of followers to continue to be inspired and believe in the teachings of Roman Catholicism. He was the pontiff who “had made reaching out to other religions and trying to heal the 1,000-year-old schism in Christianity.” This was his hallmark of his pontificate. He was also acclaimed as the “pope of the youth” because of his great love and genuine service to the youth. And, what now? What could the world expect after the sense of loss the world felt over the death of JPII?
The story doesn’t end yet. And it doesn’t have to end simply because it is a story of life, and that kind of story is a continuous stance. In fact, in this story, JPII was even the writer-protagonist who continued the making of a commendable story the world needs, prepared and made ready by previous heads of the Catholic Church who had also bequeathed hallmarks to highlight their own chapters in that same story. And indeed, JPII has contributed some great chapters to continue the story.
The query I have in mind now, with our new elected pope, Pope Benedict XVI, being another writer-protagonist to continue the story, is on how he is going to continue the story — how he would start his chapter, how it will influence the people reading his work.
I have based my inference on this regard on what his name suggests: Benedict XVI because “choosing a new name is a pontiff’s first significant act in office, and it provides clues about what kind of leader he aspires to be.”
The last pope named Benedict headed the Catholic Church from 1914 to 1922. He guided the church during the dark years of World War I, espousing a policy of strict neutrality and pushing for peace through negotiations. To honor him, Joseph Ratzinger chose the same name.
Ratzinger told cardinals he wanted to pay homage to Benedict XV, known for tireless efforts to help refugees and reunite a world divided by the Great War, an archbishop said.
Benedict XV, Giacomo Della Chiesa, had the difficult task of providing leadership for Roman Catholic countries pitted against each other during World War 1, each claiming a just fight and praying for victory.”
The previous Benedict was seen as a bridge-builder between the Western and Eastern Churches, a key challenge of the new, 21st century Benedict. Ratzinger’s immediate namesake was described as kindly and approachable, and something of a peacemaker.
On the other hand, the inspiration behind the new Pope’s name may have also come from St. Benedict, the Italian holy man who died in 821. St. Benedict founded a monastery at Monte Cassino whose “Rules” formed the basis of Western Monasticism and reform. “Historians credit his order with contributing immensely to the progress of spirituality in the Church during the Middle Ages and to its struggle for liberation from control by the laity.”
Now, the first momentous test for the new Pope will be his inaugural Mass, and the homily he will deliver. And great attention will be given to his new or could be “renewed” appointments to the Vatican government. Then he will travel to Germany, his homeland, this August 16-21 to preside over World Youth Day, an innovation of JPII.
Whatever theme he may choose for his chapter of the story, I am sure (and I know you are, too) that it will be a noble one to inspire every follower to read, to understand and to believe in the teachings of the Church.