North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Leader of the Catholic Church plans to step down

Pope Benedict XVI rocked members and followers of the Catholic church by announcing his plans to step down from his role as church leader. The Catholic Church worldwide claims the allegiance of approximately 1.2 billion people (that's 1 out of every six individuals on the planet). Pope Benedict XVI, an 84-year old German, stated he was getting old and unable to meet the demands of his office. Seems to be a reasonable position and some would say, a courageous decision, as it sets an example for many other world leaders who have transformed their position into one to last a lifetime, and likely further into a dynasty for their own upcoming family members. On the other hand, this is the first time in over 600 years that a Pope resigned rather than dying in office, so it is clearly not a common action.

Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger from Germany, is approaching 85, the first German Pope in 1000 years, and has been a theologically conservative leader.

The Catholic's view of the leader of the leader of the Church.

Church teachings state that the Pope in office represents the unbroken line of successors to the Apostle Peter, to whom Jesus said in Matthew 16:

He [Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”

From the Catholic church website, we can read, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys infallibility in virtue of his office, when as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith – he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith and morals."

Interesting view of the number of Catholics around the world. Hardly any numbers in Asia, though the Philippines is strong. Then Mexico and Latin America outpace the US.

And from there, the debates erupt. Protestants and unbelievers speaking from a thousand different perspectives, resent, reject, and bristle at the thought of infallibility in a human, that God speaks through this person who has by virtue of his role (no women here) can bind decisions not only on earth but in heaven.

Of the many accusations against the Catholic church through the ages - the inquisition, how Catholicism spread during the colonization period, the concerns of Vatican city connections to Nazi's in WWII - the latest has been most damaging: instances of child sexual abuse by priests and less than aggressive efforts by Bishops and Cardinals to root out the offenders.

The Catholic church itself from a global perspective is as diverse a body as can be imagined. Relatively rich Western countries have Cardinals and Bishops overseeing debates and scandals from sex abuse from its priests, declining membership, and resistance to teachings that are out of touch with secular norms (abortion/pro choice, use of birth control, limited roles for women in authoritative positions). Yet membership is growing in African and Latin American countries where poverty and social justice issues have been the background where Catholic leaders have stood on the side of righting wrongs.

Numerous catholic institutions serve the poor, provide education, health, shelter and comfort. Mother Teresa is a well known example, but lay groups, orders of sisters, Catholic Relief Services all feed into a true force of Christian service.

In any case, this Pope's resignation - set for the end of February - means that a new successor to the original Peter is getting underway. A "conclave" will be organized where all Cardinals under the age of 80 are eligible to vote for the next Pope. Apparently there are 118 of these, though 67 were given their appointments by Pope Benedict himself.

Here are the Cardinals who will select the next Pope

Conclaves that decide on each Pope, let's say the past three or four pope's have brought about discussion and debate about whether the new Pope should be Italian, Western European, or from Africa, or Latin America, whether the new one should be relatively young and therefore likely to remain in office for some time, or older, bringing about change once again on a faster schedule. The word "papible" has popped up - one having the necessary qualities of a Pope.

The previous pope, John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła) was the first Polish pope and first non-Italian pope in 455 years. He was in office from 1978 to 2005.

Pope John Paul II, was a key individual in supporting fellow Pole Lech Welesa in challenging Communism in Poland, and with Moscow's Gorbachev during his policies of glasnost and perestroika

Before him was John Paul I (Albino Luciani), an Italian who was in office one month before passing.

Before him was Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Marìa Montini) an Italian in office from 1963 to 1978, and was the first Pope to ever visit the United States in his official capacity. (That of course, reminds Teatree that John F Kennedy was the first Catholic US President (1960-1963), and a debate over whether he would answer to the Pope or follow the Constitution was an important decision point for Americans)

A CBC news photo - President John F. Kennedy talks with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican on July 3, 1963. The meeting was historic: the first Roman Catholic president of the United States was seeing the Roman Catholic pontiff only days after his papal coronation. President Kennedy was assassinated later that year.

So onward. Many young Westerners do not see the Catholic church as relevant as the earlier generations - indeed a group of 100 men most over the age of 55 picking from among themselves does give off a sense of yesterday - but the institution has shown its resiliency and influence many times in the past.

Smoke coming from a chimney at each Catholic conclave signals the inconclusive or conclusive votes cast for a new Pope. This also seems antiquated ... doesn't it? (PS - black smoke means a failed ballot, white smoke means a selection has been successfully made.)

Dare we say, "good luck"??

No comments: