At exactly 7pm (GMT) the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, abdicated from the ministry of St Peter, and retired from the Papacy to make room for new energy in the ministry of Peter. He did this recognising his accelerating frailty and his desire for the good of the Church.
The Ordinariate of the Southwest of England marked his last hour as Pope with a Holy Hour of largely silent prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, and then at 7pm with a Mass for the Election of a New Pope. Local Catholics joined members of the Ordinariate for both the Holy Hour and the Mass, at the Church of the Holy Angels, Chelston, Torquay. Fr David Lashbrooke was principle celebrant and spoke of how this day was an emotional day for many of us. Fr Simon Chinery led the Prayers of the People praying for His Holiness Benedict XVI, and for the Church, the Cardinals, the Bishops and Priests and all God's people.
First lesson: Hebrews 5:1-10
Gospel: John 17: 11b, 17-23
Fr Ian Hellyer preached the following sermon:
Mass for the Election of a New Pope (Feb 28th 2013)
We offer this Mass for the election of a new pope, praying that the Cardinals will give themselves over to the Holy Spirit and be guided and directed by Him. However we do so mindful of the great pontificate of His Holiness Benedict XVI. We in the Ordinariate have much, of course, to be thankful for because it is with the encouragement and vision of Benedict that the Ordinariate came into being.
As we learnt last summer, with Prof Tracey Rowland, Benedict's vision comes partly from the writing of Blessed John Henry Newman, and it is largely because of him that Benedict has a love and a care for the welcoming of Anglicans back into full communion.
Who can forget the wonderful days of Benedict's Apostolic Visit to England and Scotland? They were days full of joy. Every word he said seemed packed full of apposite meaning and light. My family and I made the pilgrimage to Birmingham for the Beatification Mass. For me it cemented my resolve to accept the offer of Anglicanorum Coetibus, and to work within the vision implicit in that document. But more than that, I was a convinced that I could be in a Church that was led by a man like Benedict XVI. Here was everything one needed in a Church leader, and everything I could not see in the leader(s) of the communion I was then in!
Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
Jesus prayed those words for the Church, for you and I, and in our time we have had a great Pope who has been teaching us the centrality of truth. Joseph Ratzinger grew up amongst the rise of the nihilism of Nazism and witnessed its evil destructiveness. But he also then, a little later, witnessed the opposite though equally dangerous desire to fall into idealistic anarchy, and especially with the German Student Movement riots in the 1960s. What both Nazism and the left wing anarchists both rejected was the priority of truth. For Joseph Ratzinger truth was central, but truth was not an abstract thing that we hold in our head. Despite his truly immense intellect, Ratzinger did not elevate the power of reason alone; he was a pious Catholic and had studied Catholic theology, and he knew that ultimately truth was not a thing, truth was a Person, and truth had become a man, Jesus Christ.
And now Western civilisation is rejecting truth, preferring instead that we all have our own 'truths' – it is called relativism, but it is not truth at all of course. In relativism truth is replaced with opinion. And our holy father Benedict has been the foremost critic of this new way of attenuating the truth – and he has recognised it as a dictatorship. Which is a strong word, but accurate. Relativists are only tolerant of other relativists – everyone else is a fundamentalist. By their definition all people who believe in the source of truth outside themselves is a fundamentalist and is very dangerous.
Benedict as our pope, time and time again, in his homilies, in his writings, has brought us back to the truth who is a Person in the perfect communion of Love, the Holy Trinity. We cannot change the truth to suit fashion, mood or feelings; truth is given to us – it is divine gift – its source is in the being of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So where does that leave us? As our beloved Benedict retires to a life of prayer, do we fear that all may be lost? Of course if we listen to the heralds of relativism, the media, then a new pope could change everything! But that is not the case. The reason it is not the case is that the truth does not have its origin in the Pope; the origin of truth is the Blessed and Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Benedict based all his teaching not upon his own opinion but the revelation of Jesus Christ. We Catholics therefore, alone of all people, have nothing to fear, for our faith is based not in opinion but the revealed truth of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. The Cardinals that His Holiness has chosen have been people rooted in this truth, so we can expect someone who is as consecrated to the truth as Benedict was.
What is our future in the Ordinariate? We must continue to work under the vision in Anglicanorum Coetibus which is a vision for unity. It is the prayer of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, that the Church be one; as we heard in the gospel tonight: “That they may be one, even as we are one.”
This is no loose federation of Christians being nice to one another, but the unity that is the Holy Trinity. That is what our Lord prays for. And that is what the Ordinariate is called to work for – we serve the Church by working for this profound unity. And this is crucial work for our time; in the words of Christ, “...so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” While we are disunited we undermine the effectiveness of the witness of the Church.
His Holiness Benedict XVI established the Ordinariate to be an instrument for unity, let us dedicate ourselves afresh today, as we pray for a new Pope, that we are called to work according to the very prayer of our Saviour, which He prayed on the night He was betrayed. That is an awesome calling, but it is one we can confidently pursue because it is not based in some person's latest project or idea, but in the stated desire of God Himself, Jesus Christ. (“If God is for us, who can be against us?...”) Yes we might tremble, but deep down we have nothing to fear. In answering the call to be in full communion and to work for full communion amongst all Christians, we in the Ordinariate are empowered by the prayer of Jesus Christ Himself!
“That they may be one, even as we are one.”
May God continue to bless His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, in his life of prayer, of praying the truth, that the whole Church may recover its confidence in the truth, and by the unity of faith, hope and love, we become effective witnesses to the world, that the world might believe.