My reaction to the news today of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation was, I expect, fairly typical - shock and sadness. I love "Papa B" - as our Pope, but also for his particular qualities... his theological wisdom, the way he has re-established a place in the Church for centuries-old traditions such as the Extraordinary Form Mass so that they can take their place alongside and complementary to newer developments, his sincere engagement with modern secular culture, his love for souls and evangelical zeal... and, above all perhaps, his devotion to those two soulmates who can never survive when separated: Love and Truth.
I know the rest of St John's Pro-Life Group as well as countless others will join me in praying for a happy and blessed retirement for "Papa B" and in thanksgiving for the countless blessings he has brought to the Church. This is a pro-life blog and so I would especially like to thank Pope Benedict for his tireless defence of the sanctity of human life and his steadfast witness to the truth of human nature. Over the years he's written and said many things on the subject; in grateful commemoration of this aspect of his ministry, I quote here from his message for this year's World Day of Peace on 1 January (courtesy of the Priests for Life website).
Peacemakers are those who love, defend and promote life in its fullness
The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.
Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenceless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace. Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn. Every offence against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment. Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.
There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.
These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.
Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. Let's ask her to pray for our Pope in his retirement, for the Barque of St Peter as it awaits the next Captain to steer it through often choppy waters and especially for the conclave who must elect that Captain. May God's Will be done!