Benedict At Six Months

Sandro Magister gives an extremely positive assessment. Attendance at papal audiences and the Angelus has doubled, and Vatican bureaucrats are allegedly shaking in fear, as the Pope is said to wish to personally oversee episcopal appointments and downsize the clereaucracy. Hard to judge the latter, but this is unquestionably true:

The image of Benedict XVI kneeling silently before the Eucharist has become the key image of this pontificate.

This was the image he presented in August before a million young people in Cologne. And in mid-October, with the 100,000 children celebrating their first communion in St. Peter’s Square. And with the 250 bishops and cardinals gathered in Rome for the synod, in the austere Eucharistic adoration on Monday, October 17.

In all three of these moments, the radiant host on the altar was the same as the one Raphael painted at the center of the “Disputation on the Most Holy Sacrament”: the masterpiece which is also a theological manifesto through which the Church speaks of itself, and which Benedict XVI wanted to dominate the hall of the synod dedicated to the Eucharist. Few had believed it when, during his first trip outside Rome, to Bari at the end of May, pope Joseph Ratzinger re-proposed the motto of the martyrs of ancient Rome: “Sine dominico non possumus”; we cannot livewithout the Mass on the Lord’s day.

And yet it was the Eucharist that distinguished the first Christians right from the beginning in the pagans’ eyes. The Eucharist was the reason they faced martyrdom. For saint Benedict and pope Gregory the Great, celebrating the liturgy and building up civilization were all of a piece. The greatest event for the Church in the last century, Vatican Council II, left its most visible and lasting (and controversial) mark in the liturgy. As it was in the past, so also now the Mass is the measure of Catholic identity, as it has been since Jesus said the words “ Do this in memory of me” at the last supper. In the worldwide panorama of the Church which has been explored over the three weeks of the synod, from October 2-23, the most flourishing areas of
Christianity have been shown to be those where faith in and celebration of the Eucharist are strongest, sometimes flourishing in the face of death.

Benedict XVI is doing nothing other than taking seriously – very, very seriously –this foundational reality of Christian life.

Efforts to compare Benedict favorably or unfavorably with John Paul meet with my skepticism, since they were close collaborators for 25 years, and John Paul's pontificate unquestionably laid the ground for what Benedict will accomplish (and for believers, there's no doubt that John Paul is interceding on his friend's behalf, so there remains a close collaboration between the two), and any papacy is the work of Another anyway. But it's still a great read. Curtsy to Open Book.