Saturday, February 16, 2013

The shoes of the Fisherman

"The shoes of the Fisherman" - A tract on the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI.
Never in the annals of hoary papal history, has a Pope voluntarily resigned from the highest office that Christianity has to offer : The Papacy of the Roman Catholic church; founded by St Peter; ordained by Jesus himself - this formidable institution has been the bed rock of over a billion people for hundreds of years; their conscience keeper, their moral compass ; their unswerving guide in turbulent times, and above all a colossal power, that resonates with the voice of God almighty in every single act of their lives.

The Pope is considered by the Roman Catholics as the apostolic successor of St Peter (A fisherman, by profession), divinely appointed to preserve and nurture the pure strain of Christian doctrine that emanated from the life of Jesus. Peter in Greek means "Petra" or "rock" signifying the stability of the Church amidst the vicissitudes of centuries that have passed by. The election of the Pope is by itself an intriguing process, initiated by Pope Gregory X during the second council of Lyons in 1274 : it has gone through numerous modifications across the ages and current procedures were established by Pope John Paul II in 1970.

There have been many Popes who have resigned under coercion; but only two Popes in recorded history have voluntarily resigned their supremely consecrated office. Pope Celestine V in AD 1294 and Pope Gregory XII in AD 1415; and both did so for different reasons diametrically opposite to each other.

Celestine was Benedictine monk on whom the mantle of papacy was thrust. He was too much of a mystic to run an religious institution as powerful, complicated and political as the church. Within five months and eight days, he gave up the vestments of the Papal office and retired to a life of Solitude and prayer. He was the first Pope to formalize the resignation process and so was he the first to follow his own official decree by resigning. True to the spirit of the church, he was canonized later; but no other Pope has since been decorated with the name of "Celestine" . Such is the fate of a Mystic.

Pope Gregory VII , on the other hand was elected on the express condition by a conclave of Fifteen cardinals that he should voluntarily resign the moment the Anti pope Benedict the XIII (the rival papal claimant in the east) renounces his seemingly dubious claim to Papacy. It was an orchestrated political move to end the schism between the Western and Easter churches and Gregory completely understood the implications of his office even he before he took up his holy sacraments. Gregory's politically expedient move is a far cry from the mystical yearnings of Celestine.

What then prompted Pope Benedict XVI to step down? He was a theologically conservative pope who wanted the world to return to Christian values. Elected at the age of seventy eight, he may have found it a trifle difficult to instill puritan moral values in a generation that has grown up with copious ideas of Liberalism. The ossification of secular ideologies around the globe would have given him very little room to sermonize on stultified christian ethics. God has become a matter of debate and intellectualism, and more can any religion keep feeding inane, archaic myths as valid ratiocination's to a mentally agile generation.

Pope Benedict VI seems to have realized his inadequacy for this onerous role many years earlier, when he proclaimed the year 2010 as the "Celestine year", marking the 800th anniversary of Pope Celestine's birth (ironical isn't it). His entry in the book of Roman martyrology (first published in 1583) on May 19th 2010 makes interesting reading. He wrote ....

"At Castrum Fumorense near Alatri in Lazio, the birth of Saint Peter Celestine, who, when leading the life of a hermit in Abruzzo, being famous for his sanctity and miracles, was elected Roman Pontiff as an octogenarian, assumed the name Celestine V, but abandoned his office that same year and preferred to return to solitude."

Probably, Pope Benedict was too pious, well meaning and god Fearing to continue in the shoes of the fisherman........ Only he would know.

God bless................................................................

No comments: