Today is the Feast of the Chair of Peter, and in just six days Pope Benedict XVI will abdicate leaving the Church in a position it has not known in over 600 years: the Chair will be empty, but the pope will not be dead. Many have speculated as to the reason for Benedict's resignation, but those with firm faith understand that the man who holds the chair is guided in a way like no other by the Holy Spirit. There is no fear among Catholics that this holds some mystical connection to a dooms day prophecy, or that the new pope will change doctrine to suit the culture. There is a however, a steady and abiding sense of prayer for the the pope as he leaves and for the conclave as they assemble to choose a new leader of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Loverde wrote this letter to his flock in the Arlington Diocese:
“As I reflect on the life and ministry of Pope Benedict XVI, I am unfailingly impressed by his serenity; a quiet, peaceful yet certain manner of speaking and acting. This serenity is rooted in his deep faith in the Lord Jesus, a faith that underlies hope and leads to love of God and neighbor. His decision to resign the Petrine Ministry on February 28th reflects this spirit of serenity.
“Certainly, we are deeply grateful for his eight years of faithful and selfless service so evident in his homilies, encyclicals and addresses; in his numerous trips around the world, including his visit to our country in 2008; and his sensitive and pastoral concern for the faithful world-wide.
“Thinking of the welfare of the Church which he loves so dearly and is serving so faithfully, our Holy Father is confident that his stepping aside for the election of a new pope truly will benefit the Church and allow him to continue his ministry of prayer for the Church.
“I urge my brothers and sisters in the Church and beyond to pray for the welfare of Pope Benedict XVI and also to ask the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the Pope’s decision, to guide the Cardinals in the upcoming Conclave to elect a new Vicar of Christ and successor to St. Peter. With a similar serenity of spirit, let us pray for and support the Holy Father each day as he moves forward into a new chapter in his journey of faith. We remain confident about the future, recalling Christ’s words: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (cf. Mt 28:20).”
Steadfast, in hope and love, with a deep and resolute faith, the Catholic Church will move forward into the future. The confidence that she holds is that the battle is already won, the victory is in Christ Jesus. The new pope, whomever he may be, will guide the Church with the same dedication and infallibility in matters of faith and morals as all his successors. Until the white smoke is seen in the Vatican, Catholics worldwide will use these coming days and weeks to pray for our next pope.