When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope

Priorities in the face of changing culture

2005.The new Pope Benedict XVI will make a priority to communicate with the secular world, says New Zealand Marist Brother Richard Dunleavy, who lived in Rome for 13 years.

Brother Dunleavy says Pope’s Benedict’s “depth of understanding of post-modern culture means that he will always be seeking to communicate with the secular world, especially in Europe, but never at the expense of the truths as he sees them.”

Pope Benedict’s age, at 78, has caused some to call this papacy a caretaking role.

Brother Dunleavy agrees that the Pope’s age means that he will not be there for a long period, but he feels that the Cardinals, and the Holy Spirit, would have elected him because of his personal qualities, abilities and experience, without giving any priority to the “caretaker” element.

He says Cardinal Ratzinger’s election was a surprise on account of his age but not so “on account of his tremendous admirable personal qualities of faith, intelligence, human and theological culture, and gracious simplicity, together with his hands-on experience of the governance of the Church.”

“His focus is ‘radical truth’. At the Second Vatican Council he was, aged 35, one of the radical theologians and he has remained unswervingly committed to that truth as he still sees it. He does not bow to what he judges to be the winds of popular fashion and change. Thus he believes in the rational truth of what was in those documents even though, at times, they could have been more sensitively expressed.

“He gives the impression of being conservative. I believe he is really ‘conservationist’ in regard to the truths of the Church as updated and described at Vatican II. His bases are natural law, scripture and authentic tradition.”

Bishop Dunleavy says Pope Benedict XVI will not try to emulate John Paul’s “superstar” style.

“He is a man of detail in a way that John Paul was not so I think he may also bring a renewing attitude to the Curia [papal court and government] and clarify the role of the Vatican officials in relation to the world’s 4000 Bishops, seeking to create a more collegial spirit with them.”

Meanwhile, after the conclave, New Zealand Cardinal Archbishop Thomas Williams expressed congratulations and support.

Cardinal Williams says the new Pope is likely to move to strengthen and consolidate the faith in Europe which has undergone some crises in recent decades.

By Peter Veugelaers

Published 2005, Challenge Weekly

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