Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, President of the Latin American Episcopal Council, discusses Pope Benedict’s impending abdication
How should Latin America view the Holy Father’s abdication?
We must understand the spiritual mentality of the Holy Father. In all his writings, encyclicals, sermons, etc., he expresses himself with utmost confidence in God. If the Holy Father has decided to make this difficult decision, it is because he sees himself as an instrument of God. The Holy Father was surprised when he was elected; his face showed more worry than appreciation but he accepted the papacy out of trust in God. He is now resigning with the same trust with which he first accepted his role.
Why has the Holy Father chosen this time to resign?
He is resigning probably during the most peaceful time of these past eight years of his pontificate. He wanted to leave during a time of peace so that his decision would be understood well. He has always seen himself as a servant of our Lord.
He offers us a lesson…
It is a great lesson for us all. We must all ask ourselves: “If I were in his shoes, would I make the same decision?” We must learn to put our trust not in what we do but in our relationship with God and in the transcendence of eternal life. The Holy Father shows us that our true happiness lies in our encounter with the Lord. He knows that he has accomplished his mission as the successor of St. Peter and that his role now is to pray for the Church just as our Lord did in Gethsemane for the next Vicar of Christ.
Has the Holy Father’s decision been properly understood by all?
Christians and Catholics should understand this decision if viewed on a spiritual level.
Is the pontificate of Benedict XVI viewed as Eurocentric as many critics from Latin America have dubbed it?
If it is, it is understandably so. The Holy Father was born, lived and formed in Europe; he speaks about what he knows. Europe, being the center of Christianity, is his great worry. It would be very sad if the center of Christianity fell away from God.
And what of the critiques of Latin Americans at large?
What is worrisome for those of us who live on other continents is that we – particularly Latin Americans – do not understand the Holy Father’s lesson, and we don’t understand the signs of the times that oblige us to replant the seeds of the Gospel, as in the commission given by Our Lady of Aparecida. We must continue to do what God is asking of us.
How can we connect the Holy Father’s decision with the commission given by Our Lady of Aparecida to engage in pastoral conversion?
I believe that the Holy Father, who brought back the message of Aparecida during his inaugural discourse, gave us the key when he mentioned that we must all return to the understanding that we are disciples. And now this pastor has left his shepherd’s staff to another because he knows he is just another disciple of the Lord. I believe this resignation was hard for the Holy Father. Not for himself, but the fact that others might not understand his decision. Therefore, I invite you to pray for the Holy Father so that all will understand that this decision was made with no other reason than that of love for the Church.
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