On Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern time, a white-clad figure lifted off in a helicopter from a green pad in the smallest nation-state of the world. This lift-off was historic. The 265th successor of Peter left the office of Bishop of Rome, which carries with it the title of supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Benedict XVI — the enigmatic theologian pope — became Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. An era ended.
History is being made. No move by the papacy is as historic as Benedict XIV’s leaving the Holy See. Nothing is comparable to this action. It is comparable to the call of John XXIII, supposedly the caretaker pope, who called for a Council in 1962. Papal elections release an adrenaline of hope in the bloodstream of the world. The world watches. The world waits. The world wonders about the church.
Soon Cardinal Electors will assemble in conclave to elect the 266th successor of Peter. There will be no successor for Benedict XVI. The Church does not live by pope alone. The man and manner and face will change with the papal election. The message will remain inviolate. That is the heart of Catholic — Roman Catholic — faith.
There will be speculations about the new pope — his chosen name, his country of origin, his age, his temperament, his experience, his program for governance of the Church in the 21st century. What will change? What will endure in the change of the shepherd?
The marks of the Church are: the Church is One. The Church is Holy. The Church is Catholic. The Church is apostolic. We can become more concerned with church-ianity rather than Christ-ianity. What will be the concern for the new pope?
A concern for the 21st-century Church is the unnoticed and under-reported news that 100,000 Christians die each year for the faith.