April 25, 2005


Pope Issues Call for Unity: Benedict XVI reaches out to 'the whole church' at a colorful inauguration but offers few hints of his agenda for the new papacy. (Tracy Wilkinson and Richard Boudreaux, April 25, 2005, LA Times)

In golden robes and crown, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday took on the ancient trappings of a troubled Roman Catholic Church and sketched the spiritual outline of his papacy, telling followers that only by embracing God can mankind escape a wasteland that haunts this Earth.

The inauguration of Benedict in a sun-streaked ceremony in St. Peter's Square was regal and subdued. It capped an emotionally charged three-week interregnum that started with the death of Pope John Paul II and ended with the election and installation of his controversial successor.

The German-born Benedict delivered a homily in accented but clear Italian, a speech laden with grim pictures of humanity's plight but also hopeful hints of redemption. There was little indication what shape his papacy might take, however, and only brief mention of some of John Paul's initiatives, such as dialogue with other faiths.

Instead, Benedict focused on moral and spiritual directives.

"We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death, in the sea of darkness without light," the 78-year-old pontiff said in his first public Mass since his election Tuesday. "The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendor of God's light, into true life."

He said his government plan was "not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas," but to "listen, together with the whole church, to the word and will of the Lord." [...]

In his homily, Benedict occasionally struck a more upbeat note than was typically associated with his role as austere enforcer of orthodoxy. Where he previously portrayed the church as a victim under siege, he used the inaugural Mass to assert the vitality of Roman Catholicism.

"The church is alive!" he repeated five times. "And the church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way toward the future."

Benedict issued a call for unity among Christians, lamenting that the "fisherman's net" had been broken as it cast about for men and women to follow God. He also saluted those of other faiths in a clear attempt to dispel fears about his past assertions of Catholic primacy and condemnations of other faiths as inferior. However, he did not retract those earlier judgments.

He said Jews were Christians' brothers, "to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God's irrevocable promises."

In a darker side of his homily, Benedict used the bleak imagery that often characterized the speeches he made before becoming pope. He described a world of dark, empty souls and "external deserts" of poverty, hunger, abandonment and loneliness.

"The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast," he said.

"The human race — every one of us — is the sheep lost in the desert which no longer knows the way. The son of God will not let this happen; he cannot abandon humanity in so wretched a condition. He leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the cross. He takes it upon his shoulders and carries our humanity; he carries us all; he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep."

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2005 8:08 AM

The "austere enforcer"? I thought that was Frank Nitti's job.

Posted by: jdkelly at April 25, 2005 9:22 AM

When I was a boy, we were told that there were 400 Christian cults in America.

I see, however, that a survey done in 1990 found 23,000.

Not much unity there.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 27, 2005 4:43 PM


Posted by: oj at April 27, 2005 8:04 PM

I admit the differences are too small for me to discern, but Christians can do it, and they are always ready to kill over it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 28, 2005 6:08 PM


Posted by: oj at April 28, 2005 7:43 PM