Well, apparently, it was seven years ago today that Benedict XVI was elected.
I watched with great interest, of course. I seem to recall asking myself why in the NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY they would send Christiane Amanpour to cover a papal funeral and election. Not that I don’t love her– heck, I follow her on Twitter! But a Vatican correspondent she is not.
I remember seeing the death of John XXIII on TV, when we went to pick up our ironing– in those days, normal people sent out their ironing to other normal people. It made quite an impression on me. But when John Paul I and II were elected, I was off in some ivory tower, without a television. Sitting in the dining hall, someone said, “The Pope died.” Someone else said, “That was last month.” “No,” they said, “he died again.”
ANYWAY, what I was going to say, about Benedict XVI… There’s a lot of stuff I don’t like, everywhere and all the time. But at least so far, I have a fundamental respect for this pope. When I first heard Ratzinger mentioned as a frontrunner, I was really surprised– it just seemed to me that he was such a divisive figure, he wouldn’t really be an obvious choice– not that I know anything about how cardinals think. But he entirely won me over, in the week preceding his election, with the beauty and dignity which he brought to the liturgy, and most of all with his preaching.
And I think that, far from being a divisive figure, he has actually held things together through some very difficult times. Perhaps his ability to do this rests on his eloquence– his ability to communicate the church’s core faith as something too precious to ignore, in spite of her obvious shortcomings.