Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Pope Benedict XVI - five years on

Today is the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI.


I was in the Oxford Oratory that teatime when the news of his election came through, so I was able to be at what was, I assume, the first Mass celebrated in the city in his pontificate. This was followed by a Te Deum. There was there and amongst my friends a real excitement and delight, and an anticipation of what the future might hold. We have not been disappointed.

If his birthday last Friday was an opportunity to give thanks for the life and theological work of Joseph Ratzinger, today is an occasion to give thanks for his achievements as Vicar of Christ. They are very considerable, and to be appreciated as charting the path for the future.

Those commentators who thought he would be in the shadow of his predecessor were rapidly proved wrong. He quickly established himself in his office and caught the attention of friend and foe.

Liturgical matters often predominate in the ecclesiastical blogosphere - well yes, because they are important, and the Pope by enunciating his concept of a hermeneutic of continuity, by issuing Summorum Pontificum, and by all that he has encouraged has rendered a huge service to the life of the Church - ome that will continue to yield results far into the future.

Anglicanorum Coetibus can be linked to this, but it needs to be seen both in terms of dialogue with the Orthodox and with SSPX - these are all critically important initiatives which we must pray bear real and lasting fruit.

His encyclicals and catechesis, as well as Jesus of Nazareth, are significant contributions to teaching and expounding the faith - he is, quite simply, a marvellous teacher.

As Pope he has not avoided dealing with painful issues in the Church - even when, as at present, critics, instead of praising him for seeking to remedy past ills and evils, seem to want to blame him personally.

He has drawn attention by his witness in the face of hostility to the threats to the Church. Threats from within to its integrity of teaching and the real problem of active dissent. Threats from without by those who see in him a formidable intellectual opponent, and someone who articulates the message of Christ. Their criticism, and loathing in some cases, is a backhanded compliment of the highest order.

As Pope he fully bears out the Johannine account of Christ's commissioning of St Peter which we had as the Mass Gospel yesterday.

For a man who appears personally reserved and retiring he has not only been placed in the central role, but has travelled extensively to tend and feed the flock assigned to him.

All this from a man who was elected at 78 - his achievements in the first five years of his Papacy are tremendous, and for which we should all be truly and prayerfully grateful. Long may he reign and guide the Church.

Our Lady pray, SS Peter and Paul pray, St Benedict pray, S Augustine pray, St Leo the Great pray. St Gregory the Great pray, let us all pray...

Ad multos, multos annos

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