Thursday, April 20, 2006

Summary of Benedict's First Year

John Allen over at Nat'l Catholic Reporter has a great summary of the Pope's first year...

Here is an interesting summary paragraph in the article:

John Paul II will likely be remembered in history as a great evangelist. He took his show on the road, dramatically expanding the visibility and relevance of the papacy, awakening a much stronger sense among Catholics of the need to bring their faith convictions to their public and professional responsibilities. He was a pope who moved history as few have. His texts, however, could sometimes be a bit wooden and hard to follow, laden as they sometimes were with the vocabulary of philosophical personalism.

Benedict, on the other hand, is shaping up as a great teacher. It has struck many observers in Rome that he is still drawing larger-than-usual crowds for his Wednesday general audience and for the Sunday Angelus address. Speaking afterwards with the people who show up, it’s striking how often they give some version of the following reaction: “I can understand him.”

Benedict has a remarkable capacity to express complex theological ideas with clarity and simplicity. To take just one example, during a meeting with Roman youth making their First Communion, a young man asked the pope how it’s possible that Jesus is present in the bread and wine at the Mass, since he’s not visible. Benedict responded that it’s like electricity: We don’t see the electricity directly, but we see the light. Similarly, we see Jesus in the effects he produces in us through Communion, in the new “light” he brings into our lives.

It was an answer an 8-year-old could understand.

To some extent, this contrast reflects the biographies of the two men. Had Karol Wojtyla not been a pope, he would have been an actor; if Joseph Ratzinger had not been a pope, he would have been a university professor.

The difference can be expressed this way: People came to see John Paul, they come to hear Benedict.

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