Benedict and Francis: A Lesson in Apostolic Continuity | William L. Patenaude | Catholic World Report
The differences between the two men give witness to the different gifts of the same Holy Spirit
When Pope Francis visited his predecessor at Castle Gandolfo in March, he said to Benedict XVI that “we are brothers.” This image nicely frames the differences between them. It underscores that the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was not a rupture in the Church (as some suggest) but an unexpected lesson in apostolic continuity.
Specifically, both men have illuminated from different perspectives the relation between the primacy of God’s offering of grace in the liturgy of the altar and subsequent encounters of man and neighbor in the liturgies of love in everyday life. While Pope Benedict most often stressed the encounter of God with man—which then calls for and makes possible authentic encounters with neighbor—Pope Francis has stressed man’s interactions with each other, which allows us to bring Christ to a world despairing in atheistic politics and individual spiritualities.
These and other forms of despair are well known to both men. Joseph Ratzinger witnessed it in the rise and fall of Nazi Germany and the brutality of Communist and other explicitly secular regimes. Jorge Bergoglio witnessed it in the poverty and politics of Argentina. He has also echoed Benedict XVI’s concern over a “dictatorship of relativism.”
Providentially, both men share particular theological remedies for all this. In his autobiography Milestones, Ratzinger calls attention to the writings of theologians like Henri de Lubac—the twentieth century Jesuit that is also appreciated by Pope Francis. Ratzinger recalls his delight in de Lubac’s expression of Catholicism as a “social faith, conceived and lived as a we—a faith that, precisely as such and according to its nature, was also hope, affecting history as a whole, and not only the promise of a private blissfulness to individuals.”
Today, Pope Francis is demonstrating the power of these words. He has offered stunning visuals that have captivated international audiences. And he exhorts the faithful to love likewise. In his March 27th General Audience, he said that “[f]ollowing and accompanying Christ, staying with him, demands ‘coming out of ourselves’, requires us to be outgoing; to come out of ourselves, out of a dreary way of living faith that has become a habit, out of the temptation to withdraw into our own plans which end by shutting out God’s creative action.”
Some who cheer these words groaned eight years ago when the College of Cardinals elected Joseph Ratzinger to succeed Pope John Paul II.