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Francisco Varo, Theologian, University of Navarra, Spain

Withdrawing in time

Tue, 12 Feb 2013 10:12:00 +0000 Published in Expansion

"Retreat in time". This was the headline of Diario Madrid's publishing house of May 30, 1968 about the political status in which De Gaulle was debating during those days. Its nine paragraphs cost the newspaper a sanctioning transcript , because the authorities of the regime saw behind those comments a not veiled allusion to the resistance of the then Head of State to relinquish power. Attachment to power is not a disease exclusive to dictators. dictators. Cases of this pathology abound in democracy, business, sports and almost all areas of civil life. Clinging to the armchair is a frequent reaction in those who have enjoyed the sweetness of power.
For this reason, the Withdrawal of Benedict XVI to the ministry of Bishop of Rome has shocked the world. We are not accustomed to being surprised by the characters that the newspapers talk about with this subject news. What has happened in this case? I think that Joseph Ratzinger has made a clear-sighted, humble decision, full of supernatural sense. It takes a clear intelligence, together with a profound simplicity, to adequately weigh one's physical strength against the needs of the government of the Church in the world.The position of the Roman Pontiff is not comparable to the situations experienced in the past.
The office of Roman Pontiff, more than a position, is a burden, like all the tasks of government in the Church. If properly assumed, they do not constitute a goal staff for ambitious people, nor points of influence to impose one's own ideas, but modes of self-sacrificing service to the truth revealed by God, and with it to all Christians and to humanity. Jesus said of himself that he had not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for many. Throughout these eight years the Pope has been a good disciple of such a great master, a "humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," as he defined himself in his first he defined himself in his first words after his election. His decision to retire when he realizes that he lacks the physical strength necessary to carry out his service with the energy it requires honors him as a person and as a believer, since it is the clearest testimony that his life has no other purpose than to serve the Gospel in the best possible way, and, from the end of the month, that way will be prayer. Those of us who at some point had the grace of knowing and dialoguing with the theologian Ratzinger before his election as Pope, were already able to perceive then the serene simplicity, full of wisdom, of someone who contemplates the world in which he lives with the clarity provided by the gaze of faith. At the same time, over a first impression of shyness, we could perceive his attentive pastoral application . We have been able to verify the same later. Close and attentive to the needs of the Christian people, he gave heroic examples of evangelical discernment in the face of the great problems of humanity in our time.
Those of us who were in the esplanade of Cuatro Vientos during the World Youth Day workshop were impressed by his intense prayer before Jesus in the monstrance, in the midst of that incredible storm of rain and wind, as well as by his concentration in celebrating the Eucharist and the warmth of his affectionate words. They were unforgettable moments for many of us, leaving an indelible mark on our lives.
Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, deserves the respect due to the great men of history, those who, without seeking it, have opened with simplicity a luminous furrow in humanity.