As the Papal conclave closed, fear crept into my heart. “Anybody but Ratzinger,” I prayed. Moments before the announcement of who was to succeed Pope John Paul II I even said to myself, “If it’s Ratzinger, I’m becoming an Episcopalian.” After my fears were confirmed, I cringed as the white-haired German whom many liberal Catholics have come to despise emerged on the balcony at St. Peter’s.
In his former job, as the head of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the Cardinal Ratzinger was tenacious. He abhorred relativism, silenced liberal theologians, and published a document called Dominus Iesus, that stated that religions other than Catholicism are “deficient.”
Where did the transformation of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger into Pope Benedict XVI leave me now, as a progressive, married, American man who had hopes of being ordained some day?
I took a deep breath, and took a walk in Central Park for an hour to consider the new Pope and the future of my church. As I sat in silence, I began to hum a tune that just entered my mind randomly. When I realized what the words of the hymn were they seemed entirely appropriate:
“Do not be afraid I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow me
I will bring you home
I love you
And you are mine.”
Regardless of who the Pope is we all have much work to do. The poor, who are always with us, still need our time and care. Christ’s work needs our hands and feet to walk to places where we may not want to go.
Christ and His church still need each and every one of us to do his work in the world, to reach out in love to all of our brothers and sisters. Today is no different than before in that regard. It is up to us to do the work of Christ in the world, to be unafraid to BE Christ for those in desperate situations and those who are beloved by us as well. That is always our call no matter who the Pope is.
I doubt that even a Pope who has been known as an enforcer will ever want to stifle that loving response to the call of Jesus.
No matter what my opinions of the former Cardinal Ratzinger were in the past, he has always been a brother in Christ and is also now the leader of my church. One thing that we can all agree on is that the new Holy Father will need our prayers. I think that’s where I’ll choose to be for the moment, to be with our Pope in prayer. I will continue to try to discern where the spirit’s wisdom is calling me to be as a man of faith, a man who remains part of a sometimes dysfunctional Catholic family.