It has been nearly three weeks since Pope Benedict XVI announced he would resign back on February 11, 2013.
February 28, 2013 now here, Pope Benedict XVI makes contemporary history by stepping down as Pope and taking on the title Pope Emeritus with a pension, personal living quarters and staff.
Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly and insistently said his decision is basically that of a spiritual nature.
His final message to those who longed to hear his last words as Pope in St. Peter’s Square were no different; although they were more personal than any of his previous messages.
After thanking the crowd for coming, the Pontiff stated, “Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the church and makes her grow: who sows his word and thus nourishes the faith in his people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the church – charity that makes the church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland”.
Obviously beautiful and humbling words from a Pope who appears, like Pope John Paul II to have been totally in tune with his relationship to God.
He continued his spiritual emphasis by saying:
“I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and everything in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of his will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of him, of his, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10)”.
These are great words which every member of the clergy (Catholic or Protestant) would do well to remember.
If we each prayed more intently for our churches as well as the church throughout the world and encouraged our fellow believers to pray more intently as well, would our world not be a better place?
As the Pope continued his address, he gave a more personal emphasis to the church’s struggle within the world when he says:
“[These years] have been a stretch of the church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments [of] joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the church is not mine, not ours, but his - and he shall not let her sink. It is he, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of his choosing, for he desired that it be so”.
It is the part of his message where he states, “It is he [God], who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of his choosing, for he desired that it be so” where the Pope seems to emphasize once again that his leaving is God’s choice as will be the selection of a new Pope.
As Pope Benedict XVI brought his final message to a close, he stated:
“I ask you to re member me before God, and above all to pray for the cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit”.
Interestingly enough, he seems somewhat emphatic in stating, "... that the Lord might accompany him [the next Pope] with the light and the power of His Spirit”; it is as though the Pope seems concerned that the next Pope might not have his eyes entirely on God.
Is Pope Benedict XVI burdened over the potential of an "antipope" (one who will work against the church)?
As the Pope concludes, one has to wonder if the Pope is possibly suggesting that the church and even the world is headed for major trouble in the days to come as he states:
“Dear friends! God guides his church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that he does not abandon us, that he is near to us and that he surrounds us with his love. Thank you!”
From a pastoral observation, it is as if the Pope is attempting to say something without saying it.
Is the church or even the world about to experience severely difficult times? Is this why the Pope says in his final sentence, “let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that he does not abandon us, that he is near to us and that he surrounds us with his love”?
It is as the Pope is quoting directly from the third and final chapter of second Peter.
This writer does not believe in coincidence but rather the divine providence of God.
The fact that this Pope resigns and then his last message consistently refers to the “Petrine ministry” (which of course the Papal position is called); it appears Pope Benedict XVI is emphatically prophetic in his closing statement. It is apparent that he has seen something he wants to disclose.
But like all visions and prophecies they never seem to “spell it out” but it appears to this writer/pastor, this Pope has gotten about as close as anyone could get to making a specific prophetic statement.
As stated in this writer’s previous article, “…an official “Papal Prophecy” precludes at least the possibility that both Pope Benedict XVI and the next Pope could effectively be writing self fulfilling prophecy”.
Is this is what has happened?
Will the next Pope write the second half of this prophecy?
As the Papal conclave begins later this date, certainly it won’t be long before some of these answers are known.
Let us pray that the Cardinals seek God’s guidance as they select the next Pope; their choice will no doubt affect all of us.
© 2013 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III