This NY Dominican worked beside Pope Benedict and considers three of his most momentous gifts to the Church.
New York-born Dominican Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia was appointed by Pope Benedict to the liturgy dicastery of the Roman Curia in 2009, half way into the German’s pontificate.
Before that, he had worked with Cardinal Ratzinger at the CDF since 2002.
He continues to serve in the Curia, now as adjunct secretary in the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
He shared with us four reflections about the late Pope Emeritus, and his service to the Church, as he saw it from close up.
The moment that remains most vividly in my memory occurred toward the end of Pope Benedict’s homily on 24 April 2005, the day on which his pontificate began, when, with uncharacteristic passion, he spoke these memorable words:
“If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again [Pope John Paul] said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”
This deeply moving appeal reverberated throughout his pontificate.
It is regrettable that some in the media continue to describe his pontificate as a divisive one, for surely no pope worked so hard to preserve the unity of the Church as did Pope Benedict. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Church, then Cardinal Ratzinger collaborated with Pope St. John Paul II to champion a balanced, orthodox reading of the Second Vatican Council between the fracturing extremes of traditionalism and progressivism in order to ensure both the integrity of Catholic faith and morals, and the unity of the Catholic communion. Throughout his pontificate, Pope Benedict quite consistently maintained this course through dialogue with contending positions within the Church on both sides of the post-conciliar divisions.
As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Ratzinger pioneered the implementation of new legislation in the Catholic Church for dealing with sexual abuse of minors on the part of clerics and other measures for protecting the integrity and holiness of the Sacraments. When I joined the Congregation as undersecretary, I witnessed firsthand his determination to develop a jurisprudence that would be effective in removing offending clerics from ministry and even from the priesthood. He never deviated from this course as Pope, and always set the highest standards for the Congregation as it assisted bishops in facing the crisis of sexual abuse of minors in their dioceses and in the universal Church.
One of the most remarkable achievements of the pontificate of Pope Benedict was to find a workable response to requests for corporate reunion which had been addressed to the Holy See by former Anglicans desirous of bringing their precious patrimony with them as they were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. He personally and strongly encouraged the research and dialogue which led to the creation of ordinariates for newly reconciled Anglican communities where the distinctive liturgical, spiritual and theological traditions of historical English Catholicism could be acknowledged and preserved.