The “Martyrdom” of Pope Benedict XVI | Alberto Carosa | Catholic World Report
Don Nicola Bux, one of Benedict’s close collaborators, on the deeper meaning of the papal resignation
While Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and the end of his pontificate is still sending shock waves throughout the world, Catholic World Report spoke with a senior theologian, Don Nicola Bux, among the closest collaborators of Benedict XVI, especially regarding liturgical matters, as he is a consultor to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.
Don Nicola Bux, a priest the Archdiocese of Bari, has studied and taught in Jerusalem and Rome. Professor of Eastern liturgy and theology of the sacraments in the Puglia Theological Faculty, he is consultant for the international theological journal Communio. Benedict XVI appointed him peritus (theological expert) at the synods of bishops on the Eucharist in 2005 and of the Middle East five years later.
He has authored numerous essays and ten books, already translated in many other languages. Among his books is Benedict XVI's Reform: The Liturgy Between Innovation and Tradition (Ignatius Press, 2012).
Don Nicola Bux met Joseph Ratzinger in mid-1980s, when Cardinal Ratzinger had just arrived in Rome from Monaco of Bavaria to assume duty as the new of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “In that time I participated in the Spiritual Exercises that Ratzinger held for the priests of Communion and Liberation'', Don Bux recalls.
CWR: What is
your opinion about the decision made by Benedict XVI?
Fr. Bux: First of all, this gesture must be seen in the perspective of faith, and not from an earthly viewpoint, which always tends to manipulate the Church. There have been various interpretations of the gesture: from the secularization of the papacy to a revolutionized ecclesiastical power, from the democratization of authority to the wounds inflicted on the body of the Church, even by exchanging a request for pardon for one of its defects, or with the questioning of papal infallibility. But did the abandonment of Benedict IX, Celestine V and Gregory XII produce all this? Ratzinger himself has investigated in his studies how the Petrine primacy has a martyrological dimension: the responsibility of the Bishop of Rome is by all means personal and may not be diluted into episcopal collegiality, although it is always interacting with it. And it’s impressive that Benedict XVI decreed the canonization date (May 12, 2013) of the Martyrs of Otranto for their heroic witnessing to the faith by shedding their blood precisely in the same consistory of the very same date, February 11th, when he announced his resignation.
CWR: Is the responsibility you are talking about related to the “consciousness” which Pope Beneidict often referred to especially in his battles against contemporary relativism?
Fr. Bux: Yes. “Responsibility” in this sense is
meant as a personal response to the Lord. There is an insurmountable limit of
consciousness, and not only for believers, but for all men. Do you remember the
Talking Cricket? Pinocchio could also pretend that he was not there and throw a
hammer at it, but it continued to speak. Benedict XVI has also explored this
theme by reminding of “The praise of consciousness” by Blessed John Henry
Newman, who in his letter to the Duke of Norfolk proposes a toast to the
conscience and the Pope
The Petrine ministry, in the end, is the ultimate emergency appeal to the conscience of every man. In his speech in Latin announcing his decision to the world, the Holy Father clearly says: “I have repeatedly asked my conscience before God.”
Compared to contemporary relativism that prompts consciousness into doing what one wants, for us it is the capacity to distinguish between good and evil, true and false. It is the “voice of God”. It’s the only defense to preserve the dignity of the person in his/her relationship with the world.
CWR: The Pope asked
his conscience at length and, therefore, with great spiritual suffering. Is it
for this reason that you speak of “martyrological dimension” of the Petrine
Fr. Bux: Yes. The Petrine ministry has an inner martyrological dimension that enables one to incessantly ask whether, in conscience, what one is and what is being done are adequate to what are the inner aspects of the ministry of the Roman Pontiff. Such daily exercise can actually become martyrdom.
This is real “martyrdom”. Let me be clear, the task of asking oneself is for every human being. The father of the family must ask whether he is behaving himself for the good of his family. Just imagine what it is like for a Successor to Peter! And then there is something else you would have to realize—