|Pope Benedict with Queen Elizabeth during his visit to UK in 2010|
Tributes to our new ‘Pontiff Emeritus’ all agree regarding Pope Benedict’s prowess as a scholar, his personal kindness and his shy, gentle manner (qualities which we witnessed at close quarters during his visit to the UK).
If we ask what legacy he leaves, the most obvious element is the very fact of his resignation (underlining the fact that Papacy is an act of service, not a ‘job for life’). His ministry covered a painful period in our history, facing up both to sexual abuse and to the abuse of power in covering-up such scandals. Pope Benedict battled valiantly, but his health failed. So reform of the Roman Curia remains a task for his successor.
A second, happier contribution was his three encyclicals, on Love, on Hope and on the living out of the demands of that Love in the economic and social life of the human family. Despite its dense argumentation and difficult subject matter, the last of these, Caritas In Veritate, may prove the most significant in the long run. Here, for instance, amidst all the sophisticated analysis of the 2008 financial crash and its causes, you find a new focus on our care for the environment. He coined the rather forbidding technical term, ‘intergenerational justice’ (CinV, nn.48, 50). But that can be re-expressed in these simple terms: we do not inherit the earth from our parents; we borrow it from our children. Ponder that idea, think of your own kids, and then see if it doesn’t change the way you act as a consumer.
You can read another one from Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, Parish Priest of St Hugh of Lincoln, Knaphill in the Catholic Herald here