Papacy in Perspective

Pope Benedict XVIAfter reflecting on President Oakley’s “A Perspective on the Papacy” (spring 2013)  and following the first weeks of the new pontificate, I believe that Benedict XVI’s resignation may in fact add to “the mystification of the papacy.” By stepping aside, he sends a clear message to his successors: “You’d better be ready to travel the world (several times over), post, tweet and be followed, as well as entertain and worship with 3.5 million young adults at a time.” The current pope seems to be only adding to this mystification and super-priest status of the office. Taking the name of the Church’s most beloved saint and being the first ethnically Italian pope in 34 years, he has set the Eternal City into a frenzy. His preferences and servile nature anoint him to be the one to obey the words of Christ, “Rebuild my Church,” as St. Francis did. But the most important contribution of this papacy might actually contradict the final point President Oakley makes. Far from making it a more administrative job, Pope Francis seeks to further the evangelizing role of the papacy. In an interview, the then-Cardinal Bergoglio said it is a temptation to view the pastoral care of souls as an administrative post. He wants to form, from the most senior of prelates to us newly ordained priests, into “real agents of the New Evangelization.” Look for this goal to be a positive outcome of his new eight-cardinal commission to reform the Roman Curia.

—Father Mike Sheehan ’03, Roxbury, Mass.