Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Saturday, 31 December 2022

Pope Benedict has passed away… but the seat is not vacant

By Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader :

It is a precedent in the obituary of the Pontiff  with reference to the death of "emeritus" Pope Benedict XVI, as itis something that had not happened for at least 600 years, when Pope Benedict relinquished the leadership of St. Peter's ship to be handed over to another captain, so things today in the Vatican are not similar to what happened on April 2, 2005, for example, when former Pope John Paul II died, and the church witnessed on that day what is called as a "Sede Vacante" period.


The seat is not vacant then at this stage, and St. Peter's ship needs not a new captain, and there will not be no so-called "conclave" or procedures for electing a new pope after the funeral ceremonies. This is what Benedict XVI did in his life, and it is a heroic thing that history will remember, because giving up power is not an easy issue, and we have seen in our contemporary life how the relinquishment of power in many countries was bloody, and was accompanied by many tensions and fights.


Spiritual authority differs from political authority, even though the pope is the head of a state recognized by the United Nations. Humility is the main feature of those who hold any spiritual authority, and the example set by Pope Benedict will remain in the history of the Church as an important stage  that will be emulated in the future.


Today we remember this pope who moved to the  brightness of heaven with the last day of this year, namely 2022, to thank the Lord for His blessings and gifts by sending to the church this personality who was known for his wisdom and knowledge, not only for his educational standard, but also for his writings that are considered today in Catholic universities as among the most important documents being taught for all theological courses.


 In Jordan, we recall the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, when he spent four days with us and was received by His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein. He held several functionaries which we still remember, namely  laying the foundation stone for the Baptism Church at the Baptism Site, laying the foundation stone of the American University of Madaba with is affiliated with the Latin Patriarchate, visiting and blessing Our Lady of Peace Center for Persons with Disabilities, and meeting with Muslim ulema at Al Hussein Ibn Talal Mosque.


In 2010, an idea emerged and was launched  whereby it started from visiting Jordan and the Holy Land, especially the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the  Church of the Nativity and Nazareth. The Pope called for convening a Synod known as the Synod of the Catholic Church in the Middle East. It was attended by all the bishops of the world  in order to hold consultations about Christianity in the Middle East at a time when there have not been many difficulties, challenges, and persecutions of Christians in some countries. That Synod was a warning of what would happen, especially in Mosul in 2014 with regards to the emigration of Christians from Syria, as well as the bombings that took place in many sisterly churches in Egypt. Pope Benedict said in the Apostolic Exhortation he signed in Lebanon in 2012: "A Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East." He also termed religious freedom as "the crown of all freedoms."


We read these words about Christianity in the East after King Abdullah II warned a few days ago of the decrease in their number, the great difficulties they encounter, and the harassment that happens to Christians in Jerusalem and in the East in particular. There has been exorbitant cooperation between the Vatican and Jordan during the era of Pope Benedict in order to preserve Christian Arab identity in the Middle East.


Today we remember and greatly appreciate this personality,  and pray that the Lord will have mercy on him. We also convey our condolences to the Church, and to His Holiness Pope Francis, at a time when he is perhaps the first pope in history to preside at the funeral of his predecessor. This is attributed to the humility of his predecessor who preferred to renounce worldly authorities and hand them over to Pope Francis. Over the past years, the current pope considered the former and the silent pope in his residence inside the Vatican to be the great grandfather who  prays for the Church, and for peace in the world.


May God have mercy on this saintly Pope and bless the Church with its faithful clerics like him who carry out their responsibilities to the fullest, especially with the humility which engulfed this personality that the world will remember over the coming decades and centuries, as he lived with great love and abundant wisdom, especially with great asceticism and humility.