Two very similar Popes

  • December 25, 2013

In its Christmas editorial, The Catholic Register reminded readers of their double reason to be joyful in 2013. For the first time in Church history, the editorial pointed out, Catholics are able to pray for not one but two legitimate popes as Christ is yet again renewed in our hearts. It’s certainly a surprising bounty worth reflecting on as the year ends. Even more, it is a gift to carry joyfully through 2014 and well beyond.

They have already given to our future the extraordinary benefit of their teaching in the form of the encyclical Lumen Fidei and the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Both were issued in Pope Francis’ name, though it has been acknowledged that Pope Benedict principally wrote Lumen Fidei before he resigned the Throne of St. Peter last February. As much as any papal document can be considered the work of one man, rather than part of the continuous elaboration of the entire deposit of faith, Evangelii Gaudium is Francis’ alone. Yet at its heart are words shared directly from Benedict that show the two popes working not as successor to predecessor but rather as contiguous colleagues safeguarding the unbroken and unbreachable continuity of Catholic faith.

“I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,’ ” Francis writes early in the exhortation. “Thanks solely to this encounter — or renewed encounter — with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being.”

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