What Ratzinger Did

Upon hearing the news I was at first speechless and had to frenetically scroll through my tablet, while sitting at a canteen table, from one news website to another to confirm whether this was a joke (I realized that it was not April’s Fool and that the Vatican is not used to such jokes either). Within a couple of minutes I realised it was true; the Pope had resigned. But the Pope does not resign! I thought ” well he could if he wants to…” but he never does. I tried to convince myself;” but how? what now?”  It took me the whole afternoon to digest the news. Surely the message behind such a decision is loaded.

Ratzinger is a great academic and a great theologian, probably one of the greatest scholars of our times. He has the capability to question the questionable and yet at the same time affirming the Absolute, synthesising faith and reason and bringing them into dialogue. He was not the first to do such a thing, but he surely managed to do it well.

The Papacy has been there for almost 2000 years; no one in the last 600 years abdicated from it (and only 9 others did so previously). It is normal for Kings and Queens to abdicate and for Presidents and Prime Ministers to resign but not the Pope. Yet he changed that as well and one of the messages I get from his resignation is that we need to understand that humanity has its limits, and that it must recognise these limits.

We are sometimes induced to think that man is “superhuman”, that humanity has a right on everything and portrays an image of itself as being all potent and all powerful. In the name of freedom we accept no rules being imposed on us, not even those of our own finitude let alone those of an infinite being which some call God. It is not the just the finitude related to time (which means that one dies – trying to avoid even that), but the finitude of knowledge and the finitude of capability, in other words substituting oneself to God and evaluating ourselves according “to how much we have and are” and not according to “why and what we are”. Stretching too much the elastic, breaks it, and humanity risks going in the same direction unless it understands that it is not the beginning and the end of all. Before man there was time and before time there is He who created it.

Linked to this is the constant struggle within man between external rebellion and internal security. We are today, as Marco Masini sings, “conformisti travestiti da ribelli” (conformists dressed up as rebels). We are in a constant struggle against ourselves tirelessly trying to rebel to everything and yet at the same seeking security in conforming ourselves. There seems to be an outer search for an inner peace, a constant search for that something which fulfils – ending up changing more often and at a greater rate. It is not simply consumerism, but rather what consumerism hungers itself on; the need of fulfilment of man. 

Many a time we find ourselves trying to satiate this need within by what is outside. Consumerism pivots on this, conveying the message that “this is what you need to make your life complete.” However we do not realise that within a short span of time we will hear the same message again, and upon realising that what was promised to us did not materialise, we seek something newer, something different. I think that one of the reasons why this happens is because we are in a constant search for that missing piece of the puzzle, trying to and not finding rest until we find that right piece.

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