Some ecumenical reactions to Pope Benedict’s abdication

This morning I made the mistake of reading the latest issue of The Tablet at breakfast. It has given me indigestion. The antagonistic attitude it promotes to all things papal is disgraceful. It is all the more disgraceful when contrasted with its fawning tone towards the Anglican communion; indeed, the overriding impression is of insecure Catholics, of a sort, ingratiating themselves with the (dying) establishment. The journal should be outed for what it is: an Anglican journal.

Anyway to restore peace of mind and digestive harmony I made a quick Google search and with no effort found some far more balanced and positive reactions from non-Catholic Christians.

The Lutheran pastor in Rome was able to say that,

I wish to recall three actions by Pope Benedict XVI because, as a Lutheran pastor in Rome I perceive and consider these gestures to have a lasting ecumenical importance, capable of showing the way.

Pope+Visits+Evangelic+Lutheran+Church+Rome+uvmKNqZH0Z_lHe lists three ecumenical encounters with the Pope in which he sees the Pope’s “closeness and communion” with Lutherans, and the expression of an “ecumenical bond”. To be sure, Pastor Kruse’s statement comes across as a tad self-serving for the Lutheran cause, but it reveals the Lutherans’ perception of the openness of Pope Benedict to healing the breaches of the Reformation.



Vatican Pope ConcertMetropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church, traditionally one of the eastern churches more hostile to Rome, spoke of his discussion with the newly-appointed Russian ambassador to the Vatican:

“I talked about Pope Ratzinger just a few days ago during a meeting with the new Russian ambassador to the Vatican, Aleksandr Avdeyev,” said Hilarion. “He emphasized the positive direction that the relationship between the Russian Church and the Vatican has taken since the arrival of Benedict XVI. He is a highly respected theologian, an expert on orthodox traditions. I was struck by his calm and his meditated answers, as well as his acumen in trying to solve problems.”

Hilarion moves on from an analysis of ecumenical relations to an appreciation of Pope Benedict himself, and it is a strikingly generous one for the Russian Orthodox.

BenedictBartholomewThe Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, the primus inter  pares (“first among equals”) of the Orthodox churches, likewise spoke highly of Pope Benedict’s ecumenical endeavours. Moreover, he too was able to speak warm personal praise for Pope Benedict in another sign of the ecumenical thaw under this pope:

Bartholomew praised Benedict, describing him as “a highly influential figure in the Church, not only as a Pope but also as a theologian.”

“He was a person who could solve problems not only in religion, but also in the problems that we are facing today,” Bartholomew said, adding that he believed the pontiff would continue to be a prominent figure even after stepping down as pope. “He was an important reference to everyone. Thus, I believe he will continue to add value to the world with his research and articles,” he said.

Bartholomew confirms the impression that has long since emerged that Pope Benedict was someone the Orthodox felt they could deal with constructively, fruitfully and positively.

jcaratzLastly, there was a statement from the leading pastor of the Bruderhof, a type of modern anabaptist Christian community noted for its commitment to peace and simplicity, founded in the wake of World War I in Germany and persecuted by the Nazis, and now found throughout the world. Pastor Johann Arnold expressed exactly the sort of sentiments one would have hoped from The Tablet, and not expected so readily from one in the anabaptist tradition:

…we ought to praise God for the eight years that Pope Benedict has been able to serve and lead the Catholic Church.

Still, even though I am not Catholic, I was saddened to read today of his resignation. I have known this humble man personally for the last 18 years, and through personal encounters and correspondence, I have developed a deep respect for him. Already as a cardinal, and then as pope, he has been a tireless advocate for the true values of Christianity—values which are sadly being lost, and attacked, all over the world.

Pope Benedict is one of the few voices that have had the courage to speak out for true Christ-like discipleship and for traditional family values. With his resignation, we are losing a voice of conscience that we can ill afford to lose, even as it has been rejected and criticized.

I am going to miss Brother Benedict very much and will have him on my prayers.

As Fr Z would say, Pope Benedict XVI is the pope of Christian unity. Peace upon him.

9 thoughts on “Some ecumenical reactions to Pope Benedict’s abdication

    1. I am glad it hit the spot for you. We do indeed need more encouragement at this time – a less disparagement. Word is coming out about the Pope’s ailments, which are not quite what I was expecting. More soon.



    1. Amen to both your observations. It all rather confirms, to the embarrassment I suspect of his enemies within the Church, that under Pope Benedict authentic ecumenism has made great strides forward.



  1. Thank you for your clear-sighted and intelligent post. And humorous, you always make me laugh I personally loved your remarks about the Tablet). We must pray very hard for a good follow-up act in the Vatican…
    Keep this up, D.Hugh!
    Pax to you too.


    1. Why thank you, Jennifer! I hope to have a little more on matters papal over the next few days. And indeed, more seriously, we must pray very hard.

      PS I will have to track down some of your singing. 😉


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