Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

Christian Theology and worldview is at times like Euclidian Geometry – once you accept the premise, everything else follows logically. Once you accept that the Lord is the true Master of the Universe, the humble response after getting elected to succeed a strong papacy of John Paul II is to convey a feeling that ‘I am handicapped or short to the task involved; but it is still the decision of the conclave to put me in the service and that is what I am doing’. When Cardinal elect Ratzinger said ‘The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me’; he very effectively conveyed that he may not be the best choice, but he is doing the duty here. He said this in excellent words. And that seems to be the strong point of this new pope – Pope Benedict XVI. As the head of French Bishop conclave mentioned, this pope is excellent in clarity of expression. It was also evident when Cardinal Ratzinger said ‘we can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us’ at the funeral Mass for John Paul II. It was a poetic, yet logical, evocation about the departure of a much beloved Pope. It seems that such direct, clear descriptions, logical expressions and lucidity in thinking may mark the new papacy. It is very tempting to speculate that Germanic style of deductive reasoning may influence his way of thinking.

Does that mean there would clarity in the reforms? As many have commented, obviously that is not going to be the case. Roman Catholic Church will continue the orthodox approach of Pope John Paul II. After all Cardinal Ratzinger was his ideologue (if you will, as like what Paul Wolfowitz is to President Bush or NeoCons). As like everyone, I do not expect there will be any change in this orthodoxy. But where I would differ from many Liberals is trying to judge the Church solely on that basis. Modernism or Secularism is not the agenda for the Church and surely not for the one who is vocal in pointing the dangers of ‘dictatorship of relativism’. So expect to continue the orthodoxy as set in by Pope John Paul II.

When one considers the aim of the Church is to further sphere the of Faith in the contemporary world, conclave of Cardinals did the logical thing to elect someone who has been handling the global Media in a profitable manner. The media exposure which Cardinal Ratzinger got during last few weeks, his strength in articulating ideas of Faith Realm, his practically imploration of the conclave on Monday Mass in formulating challenges of the church before cardinals started the election; all made it easy for the conclave to select him. Besides the age is on his side – unlikely to have a long papacy giving time for the conclave to see the longer-term challenges and solutions. The point is in today’s Media dominated world, it is a perfect Marketing strategy so as to further the momentum the Church has got over the last one month. To put it differently, any Marketing Manager would not have approved any other election. Election of Cardinal Ratzinger is bang for the bucks in the current situation. Quick election also projects the unity within the Church and puts forward it’s best foot in this post Pope John Paul II world.

The political impact of Benedict XVI could be phenomenal despite the potential for a short Papacy. Cardinal Ratzinger published a book, came out earlier last week, which kind of questions the EU project of Ultra Secular Constitution so that they do not want to mention God and Christianity. And now he is the head of the church, potentially playing the lightening rod of opposition to the project of Ultra Secular Europe. Judging his past, Pope Benedict XVI would use words like dictator, relativism, etc. lot more in his speeches, homilies and masses. Imagine all of this constantly played on the Global Media, to the point of saturation in Europe and on this background French citizens would vote in the EU constitution referendum. Already they are opposing by 53%. I would think Messer’s Chirac and all other secular politicians would be nervous by this papal succession. If French vote no to the referendum, Dutch might not continue with the vote and next year Tony Blair (if gets reelected) would thwart British referendum as well since he can not have the vote for ‘nothing’. Are we talking the end of EU Constitution as it is proposed? Possibly. The parallels are stark – Pope John Paul II pulled down the Iron Curtain. Pope Benedict XVI wants to challenge the Ultra Secular European Union. Would he loose this opportunity to play this role? Judging by his training and utterances, looks like Benedict XVI would not hesitate to play this critical role. Something is really going to cook here.

I am not so sure about Church’s responses to challenges all over the world. Benedict XVI may not get involved that much if he gets preoccupied in the European business. But sure it is that Cardinals thought the European challenge serious enough to address and now we may observe very interesting, and important, battle of ideas.

Umesh Patil
April 19, 2005
San Jose, CA.

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