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A Shepherd's Message
February 26, 2013

During this period of historic transition, we invite the faithful of the Archdiocese and all people everywhere to visit the Papal Conclave resource page, www.archgh.org/conclave.

At the site, you can also follow Daniel Cardinal DiNardo through his
travel blog while he is in Rome to participate in electing the successor to St. Peter.

www.archgh.org/conclave/blog to see the most recent updates from Cardinal DiNardo.

On February 11, Pope Benedict XVI made a surprising announcement at the end of a Consistory called to notify the Church about the canonization of new saints. He said that he had reached the decision in conscience that he could not fulfill the office and duties of Successor of St. Peter due to his increasing age and fragile health. He said that for the good of the Church he would resign as Pope on February 28, 2013. His statement had clarity, simplicity of heart and humility. Because he is the Pope he does not offer his resignation to anyone; in full freedom he announced it and made it known to the Church.

I was on an airplane flying from Rome to Houston at the time of the announcement and was not aware of it until I landed in Washington, D.C. I was at first saddened by this important news, but I was also confident that Pope Benedict has exercised his Office with care and serenity, and that he never moved precipitously. His almost eight years of shepherding the Church universally has been marked above all by his quality of being a teacher of the Faith, a Bishop of distinction and decisiveness in essential matters, and a man of prayer. For all these reasons, the Pope is to be thanked. His ministry has borne good fruit. He accepted the Papal Office "as a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." He carried out that Office in difficult times where he had to govern the flock of Christ facing controversy both outside and inside the Church. There were problems in the Roman Curia itself, his "Chancery" office. There were issues of war and peace, the situation in the Middle East, an issue very dear to his heart, and the great problems of persecution of Christians in many parts of the world as well as serious concerns about religious freedom. There were issues in ecclesiology and liturgy, in consecrated life, issues in confronting sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and issues about evangelization and proper inculturation of the faith. Pope Benedict XVI was a very good judge of the issues and was realistic in appraising his own strengths, especially in the last year. He discerned in prayer and reflection what the good of the whole Church required and decided to resign so that the College of Cardinals could elect a new Pope of greater physical vigor who could continue to guide "the bark of Peter" in the immediate years ahead.

The evaluation of his Papacy, like the evaluations of the Cardinals who will enter the Conclave in March, are marked frequently in the secular media, and even in some Catholic media, by an almost purely political and reductionist form of thinking. They too easily fall into a secular political campaign language. In some ways this is to be expected, but such analyses dilute more important spiritual and theological considerations that must be kept in mind as well. I want to reflect briefly on Pope Benedict's papacy and its theological importance.

Pope Benedict XVI has a great theological mind and the range of his thinking is enormous. If there were two concepts and realities that have been the focus of his teaching as Pope they would be: "Caritas" (Love) and "Logos" (Word). The two terms represent a consolidation of his thinking both as Pope and as a major Theologian.

The first encyclical of Pope Benedict was "Deus Caritas Est" ("God is Love."). It was actually the first time that any pope had written specifically on this major reality. The writing is both accessible to a large audience but can also be read with attention to its great depth in terms of quotation of others and theological analysis. The Holy Father shows the unitive character of all modes of love from erotic love to the love of the Persons in the Trinity. He shows the importance of the analogy of gift and self-giving, of the character of the body and physical love as an image, a sacrament of the deepest kind of love, self-sacrificing love. His form of thinking is, by analogy, the simple, yet artful, use of Christ as Logos and loving Son of the Father. It becomes a thread to sew together various aspects of love in our lives, in culture and even in the economy of society. The encyclical is both a reminder of who we are and an invitation to discover the fundamental gifts that both human and divine love are in this world and beyond this world.

The themes of this encyclical have been recapitulated in many of the Pope's homilies, especially in the "high" liturgical seasons of Christmas-Epiphany and Lent-Holy Week-Easter-Pentecost. The superb legacy of Pope Benedict will be his teaching and preaching, a consideration that eventually will color the estimation of his papal ministry.

We are grateful for the Pope's generosity and service, and I know that we will all pray for him in the days ahead. May the Lord Jesus continue to bless Benedict, one of His most obedient servants in the line of Succession of St. Peter.
By Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
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Tags: Pope Benedict XVI, Papal Conclave

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