Tag Archives: Pope Benedict


[From the obituary of the recently deceased Bishop Paul Liu Jinghe of the Catholic Diocese of Yongping, the People’s Republic of China.]

“Bishop Paul was born in 1920 in Huanghuagang and entered a minor seminary in 1931 and then a major seminary in 1939, where he began his studies in theology and philosophy. Paul was ordained a priest in 1945 and was sent to do pastoral work in Lulong and Tangshan in the Diocese of Yongping. When the communists took power in China they eventually formed the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which took away the power of the Pope in Rome and gave the government state supervision over mainland China’s Catholics.

It was during this time that Fr Paul was imprisoned three times for his Catholic Faith and loyalty to the Pope in Rome. In 1970 Fr Paul was then sent to a re-education camp and forced to work first in a textile factory, then in a chemical plant and finally in a stone quarry. Fr Paul was released from this camp after 9 years and he continued his pastoral work in a new setting. He then accepted being ordained as a Bishop in 1981 by the state controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. This meant that his ordination as a Bishop was not accepted or recognised by the Pope and he was thus excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by this action.

After a while Bishop Paul began to realise the error of his way and deeply regretted going against the wishes of the Pope and putting himself outside of the unity of the Church in Rome.

In an act of humility Bishop Paul then made contact with the Pope and expressed his sincere apology, asking for forgiveness and reconciliation, requesting the legitimisation of his role as Bishop in union with the Church in Rome. It was Pope Benedict who in 2008 accepted the apology and re-established Bishop Paul’s full communion with the successor of St Peter and the Church in Rome. Bishop Paul retired from active ministry in 2010 due to failing health and always refused to take part in any activities of the state controlled Chinese Patriotic Association as a sign of communion and obedience to the Pope. Bishop Paul died recently just before his 93rd birthday.

The experience of Bishop Paul reminds us of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about the unity of the Church:

‘The Pope, Bishop of Rome, and Peter’s successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and the whole company of the faithful… The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor’ (sections 882 & 883).”
– From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”


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QUESTION: “‘Some of the things that Pope Francis [is reported to have] said have troubled me…’



‘When the Pope, as shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, solemnly defines a matter of faith or morals, we must give that teaching the assent of faith. The Second Vatican Council reminded us that even when he uses his teaching authority or ‘magisterium’ in a lesser, non-infallible way, we should give that teaching the religious assent of mind and will. Such would be the case with encyclicals or other formal apostolic teaching documents.’


‘Popes also exercise their pastoral ministry in more informal ways by giving sermons or talks. In these cases we are not obliged to the same level of assent, although of course we would always respect the teaching of the Holy Father.’


‘By way of example, Pope Benedict explained in the foreword to ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ that the book was not an exercise of magisterial teaching and that ‘everyone is free to contradict me’ though he asked for a spirit of goodwill in response to his ‘personal search for the face of the Lord’. The same would apply to the informal teaching of Pope Francis. Indeed, the Holy Father has shown his friendly desire for discussion and consultation in his relations with those who have taken issue with some of the things he has said.’


‘According to the teaching of the Church, the Pope has universal ordinary jurisdiction, but there is a clear and obvious difference between the exercise of the formal power of jurisdiction and suggestions that are put forward for good-natured discussion.’


‘As Catholics, we should always have a love and respect for the person of the Holy Father who has been entrusted with a great burden of pastoral care. We must pray for him, asking the Lord to assist him in his ministry. Pope Francis has certainly generated goodwill in the media and we may rejoice in that, praying always that God will, in His providence, use the gifts and personal qualities of the Pope for the good of the Church in her mission to the world.”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue December 13 2013. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


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For the first time in many centuries a pope has resigned. Now we rejoice in our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, while his predecessor, Benedict XVI (now Pope Emeritus) is living in retirement. On February 11, 2013, during a routine audience in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world with this announcement: ‘after having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry… For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.’


News of the Pope’s pending retirement was front-page news on every major international newspaper. A pope had not resigned since the Middle Ages, well before the current St Peter’s Basilica had been built. Catholics were as surprised as everyone else, and some people even felt somewhat abandoned by the Holy Father’s announcement.

Unfortunately our world has become too jaded by politics, and many people doubt any answer given by a world leader. This has led to some conspiracy theories regarding the Pope’s resignation. However, in the case of Pope Benedict XVI, we can trust his answer that he resigned due to his failing physical health. He was already 78 years old when he was elected Pope to succeed Blessed John Paul II in 2005. From his very first words as Pope it was clear that he was well aware of his weaknesses: ‘Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with insufficient instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.’


In his public discourse to the faithful in St Peter’s Square in Rome on February 27 last, Benedict XVI explained his decision, ‘In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.’

Anyone who is truly familiar with Pope Emeritus should not be surprised by this decision. As Cardinal Ratzinger he had asked Blessed John Paul II to allow him to retire on at least two occasions as even then he did not feel strong enough for his job as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. In 2010, well after he had been elected Pope, in ‘Light of the World’, a book length interview with Peter Seewald, he clearly spoke about the possibility of a pope resigning: ‘Is it possible,’ Mr Seewald asked, ‘to imagine a situation in which you would consider a resignation by the Pope appropriate?’ Benedict answered, ‘Yes. If a Pope clearly realises that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.


While it is true that no pope has retired in hundreds of years, it is also true that in this instance the Church needs to adapt to the modern world. Advances in modern medicine have radically prolonged life expectancy; today people live much longer than in past generations. However it is also the case that sometimes people can spend their last months or even years of life too weak both physically and emotionally to govern an institution as complex as the Catholic Church.

Pope John Paul II gave the world the precious testimony of a holy death and how life is precious until the final breath. However Pope Emeritus has underlined another important teaching by his historic decision to resign. In our world many people cling to power and influence, and it is a great lesson in humility to see someone at the pinnacle of influence in the world simply renouncing it and admitting that someone else should continue in his place as he can no longer effectively lead the Church. Pope Emeritus has always understood that the papacy is not about him, but that he was called to be a ‘simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.’ Since he could no longer properly fulfil his ministry as Bishop of Rome and Successor of St Peter, in conscience he had felt the need to retire. In this sense Pope Emeritus is not any different from many of the saints. St Francis is the most famous saint to retire. In 1220, six years before he died, although he was still in relatively good health, St Francis saw that the Franciscan Order was growing at a very great rate, and considered himself not to be the best leader, therefore he resigned and the Order was entrusted to another superior. The Poor Man of Assisi realised that in his poverty he could own nothing, and therefore entrusted even the Order he had founded to the providential care of God.


Pope Emeritus has not simply returned to his previous life. In his last public discourse in St Peter’s Square he explained that when he accepted the Petrine Ministry that he did so forever: ‘I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St Peter’s bounds. St Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.’

For this reason Benedict has kept his name and is now known as His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus. In his final appearance as Pope at the window of the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, he took leave of the world with the words ‘now I’m just a pilgrim beginning the last part of his journey on earth.’ Now he plans to spend the rest of his life in prayer, secluded in the Vatican. In November 2012 Pope Emeritus visited an old folks home in Rome. Here he shared his experience of old age with the residents in a beautiful discourse reminding them that ‘Living is beautiful even at our age, despite some ‘aches and pains’ and a few limitations.’ He concluded this discourse stating that ‘the prayers of the elderly can protect the world, helping it, perhaps more effectively than collective anxiety.’ We can rest assured that the prayers of this particular elderly pilgrim will be a precious treasure for the Church and the world.”
– This article, entitled “Benedict’s Lesson” by Neil Xavier O’Donoghue, was published in “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, issue May 2013. For subscriptions, please contact: Messenger of Saint Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 35123 Padua, Italy.


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Those two great missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, travelled widely, ceaselessly preaching the news of the Kingdom despite undergoing beatings, imprisonment and rejection. St Luke tells the story of their awesome undertakings, of how they cooperated with the Spirit to tell of Jesus Christ to the various communities. On fire with the love of Jesus, they overcame every obstacle, preaching ‘in season, out of season’. We get a marvellous glimpse of this in Chapter 14 of the Acts of the Apostles when, at the end of their first missionary journey after many difficulties, they arrive in Antioch. Bursting to tell the news, “they gathered the Church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).

Having themselves experienced the overwhelming love of Christ, they burned to share it with others. “They put fresh heart into the disciples encouraging them to persevere in the faith” (Acts 14:22). The radical enthusiasm for sharing the faith which Paul radiated is at the heart of this Year of Faith. “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy.” In his letter ‘Porta Fidei’ (The Door of Faith), Pope Benedict goes on to quote the words of St Augustine, “Believers strengthen themselves by believing.”

We must not let the gift of faith given to us lie wrapped up like a precious jewel hidden in a safe. “Fan into a flame the gift God gave you” (2Tim 1:6), Paul writes to Timothy, advice to encourage us also. True faith is not adhering to a bulk of doctrine, but an encounter with a living Person, Jesus. Now is the time to respond with all our hearts, with all our energies, to his welcome, “Come and see” (Jn 1:39) and allow ourselves to be transformed by his grace. Getting to know and love the Lord, listening and responding to his word, is the first step on this lifelong journey. As our love for him overflows, others are drawn to share this faith.

This Year of Faith, the Pope writes, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord. We are to radiate the Word of truth in our lives. We are invited to look at and be inspired and nourished by the great riches in the treasury of our faith. “The love of Christ urges us” (2Cor 5:17) to go through that open door and bring others with us. Let us not sit idly by but, as Paul, having reached the end of his life urged his faithful disciple Timothy, “let us stand by the truths we have learned” (2Tim 3:14).
– Published in “Far East”, Magazine of the Columban Missionaries, issue January/February 2013. Find out more about the Columban Missionaries at and (external links).


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One of the new saints canonized by Pope Benedict at the beginning of this Year of Faith is St Marianne Cope. She was born in 1838 in Heppenheim, Germany, the daughter of a farmer. Her parents had five children born in Germany and then five born in the United States of America, where the family emigrated in 1839 (to New York).

St Marianne became a naturalised American and she wrote of experiencing a call to religious life at an early age. However, after completing her education she went to work in a factory in order to support her poor family after her father became an invalid. Only when her siblings became older did St Marianne feel free to enter the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse.

Her desire was to become a teacher and this she did, working in several schools in New York State. St Marianne also participated in the establishing of two hospitals in the New York area, one in Utica and the other in Syracuse.

In 1877 she was elected Mother General when she responded to a request from the Sandwich Islands to send sisters to care for the sick, particularly those suffering from leprosy. St Marianne went with the sisters to help them settle in but, being moved by the plight of the lepers, she decided to stay.

In 1884 St Marianne established Malulani Hospital on the island of Maui and then worked in the hospital at Kaka’aoko, Honolulu. She then opened a home for the children of parents with leprosy. When St Damien (the apostle to the lepers) was diagnosed with the dreaded disease, St Marianne gave him hospitality. In 1888 St Marianne agreed to take over the work with lepers on the island of Molokai.

Her treatment of the patients was way ahead of her time, encouraging them in their material and spiritual lives. St Marianne died in 1918 and was buried among the people she loved, the ‘Mother of Outcasts’.

In his homily at the Canonization Mass, Pope Benedict said of St Marianne, ‘At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease [leprosy] Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm. She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and the spirit of her beloved St Francis.
– from: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”


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