Monday, February 17, 2014

Ratzinger’s resignation seen from the south

Cardinal HummesHe comforted him in the Sistine Chapel when “things got a bit dangerous”; he “advised” him on what name to take; he was at his side on the central Loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica on that all-important evening of 13 March. 

Francis’ decision to have him there with him on the balcony on his first public appearance after his election was the first of many gestures outside protocol which the new Pope would make. 

Dom Claudio Hummes has a great deal to tell, starting with Ratzinger’s resignation a month prior to this: “I don’t remember where I was that day but it really came as a real and unexpected surprise.”

The former cardinal of São Paulo is calm and there is an intensity in his manner as he recalls the day of Benedict XVI’s resignation. 

“We were all a bit lost and a bit worried about how the future would turn out, especially as the Church was going through a difficult moment: “the de-Christianisation of the Western world, the drop in priest numbers, the crisis in religious life and the big scandals, the IOR, the Lefebvrians … Catholics were really down, sad, worried, they held their heads down. But you also try to look at this in the light of faith, trusting that Christ will lead the Church even through that really unusual moment.” 

Behind him is a picture that shows the eighty-year-old cardinal in the Sistine Chapel by Pope Francis’ side after he was elected Pope and dressed in his papal garb as the latter was going towards the Loggia of the Blessing.
Dom Claudio is a theologian so of course he knew it was possible for a Pope to resign, he knew Roman Canon Law allows it and he was aware of Ratzinger having mentioned it on a number of occasions . 

“But in practice it seemed impossible after 600 years.” “Benedict XVI’s resignation “was completely unexpected,” Hummes stressed. The reasons given for his resignation were unusual. “Only a Pope like Benedict XVI could have made a gesture of this kind, because it takes a very rational mind to do it, as well as great faith and a deeply holy life, in order to leave everything in God’s hands. And he - Ratzinger - is that kind of man.
From that moment on things started to change at such a speed that even a veteran of Church government like the Archbishop of São Paulo – formerly Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy from 2006-2010 – is still left speechless. Pope Francis’ election and the signs he sent out right from the start meant “new doors opened as old ones closed.” 

Things have changed “so fast and in such a wonderful way. People were happy, they started to have faith in the Church again, they realised they could get through this difficult moment and this faith, this hope have not gone away.” 

There is still a crisis, Hummes admitted, “but it is being dealt with in a positive way and the scandals need to be cleared up, but now people have faith.”