Friday, July 05, 2013

Day of Three (make that Four) Popes

Today was a day of Popes in the news. It started, basically, at midnight when Pope Francis' first encyclical, "Lumen fidei" ("light of faith") was officially released. This document had, of course, been begun by Pope Benedict. (My community will be releasing it in a booklet format; you can pre-order that here. If you are familiar with the red jacket on the encyclicals and documents of Pope Benedict, get ready for a change: Pope Francis' documents will sport a green cover!)

Then there was a press release. It was not about the new encyclical, but it did involve Popes. Pope Francis signed the decree for the canonization of not one, but two Popes: "Good" Pope John and Pope John Paul II ("Santo subito," indeed!). In a way this is more than appropriate. Pope John opened the Second Vatican Council, and Pope John Paul (who as a young bishop held the last chair in the assembly at the opening session) not only attended every session, he helped write its documents and then, for over a quarter of a century, oversaw the implementation of the Council. The canonization can be seen as a compact guide to the interpretation and implementation of Vatican II!

Last time a Pope was canonized was 1954, and that Pope had died in 1914. This means that sometime soon the Church will have had three saints on the Chair of Peter in the span of less than 100 years. That those same 100 years were a particularly trying time for the world in general just demonstrates God's providence, a providence we can continue to rely on no matter how trying the times to come may be.

 Later in the day, Pope Francis blessed a statue of St. Michael the Archangel in the Vatican Gardens. Pope-Emeritus Benedict was there, too! Francis consecrated the Vatican to St. Michael the Archangel and to St. Joseph, making some relevant comments about the ongoing fight against evil, a fight which has already been won.

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