Pope Benedict XVI turns 85 on April 16th.

Happy 85th to Pope Benedict XVI

By 
  • April 10, 2012

When he turns 85 on April16 Pope Benedict XVI will be just the sixth pope to reach that milestone age and the oldest pontiff in 109 years. Last month, the Pope warmly told former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who is eight months Benedict’s senior, “Yes, I’m old, but I can still carry out my duties.”

Benedict was described as a transitional figure when he became pontiff seven years ago. He was 78. It had been 300 years since the Vatican welcomed a new pope that old. But although less robust than on the day he ascended the throne of Peter, Benedict is still keeping a busy schedule and serving the Church with faith and distinction. Some transition.

Much was made of the Pope using a cane as he boarded a plane last month. Much less was said, however, about that trip to Mexico and Cuba being the 23rd foreign excursion of his busy papacy, and how no pope his age had ever crossed the Atlantic. And Benedict is already planning to join World Youth Day next year in Brazil.

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That’s no surprise. Pope Benedict has consistently refused to act his age. Since 2005 the academic Pope has authored three acclaimed encyclicals and a world-wide bestseller, Jesus of Nazareth. He is working on the third volume of that work. Among his foreign travels are momentous visits to Auschwitz in Poland, the Blue Mosque in Istantbul, the Rome synagogue, the Holy Land and the United Nations. In October he’ll hold his fourth Synod of Bishops in five years, this one related to his signature project, New Evangelization. He has dealt with the difficult file he inherited on priestly sexual abuse and has introduced the new liturgy. All this is in addition to the countless meetings, correspondence, public addresses and appearances that comprise his daily routine.

Far from being a transitional Pope, Benedict is forging a legacy as a key figure in Church history. He has been as productive as any Pope in recent times and, regardless of what the future holds, his accomplishments are already substantial.

Yet, even though no pope has retired in the past six centuries, rumours persist that Benedict may step down. Don’t believe them.

Yes, he has slowed. He now uses a rolling platform to traverse the long main aisle at St. Peter’s. What used to be the Pope’s midnight Christmas Mass at St. Peter’s now starts at 10 p.m. In February the ceremony to install 22 new cardinals was shortened almost by half for the Pope’s benefit. Allowances are being made for him, thankfully.

But retire? Not likely. Pope Benedict continues to prove he’s more than up for the job.

Our wish for him is continued good health and a blessed and happy 85th birthday.

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