January 12, 2000
volume 11, no. 8
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


Wave of Support for Holy Father, Running Gamut from Writer Messori to Theologian Hans Kung

    VATICAN CITY, JAN 11 (ZENIT) - The Italian ANSA agency's news dispatch, which erroneously translated statements by Bishop Karl Lehmann, President of the German Episcopal Conference, gave rise to an extraordinary wave of support for the Holy Father. The report implied that the Bishop of Mainz had called openly for the Pop's resignation.

    Nothing like this has ever happened in the 21 years of this pontificate. From left to right, from Germany to the Vatican, Cardinals, bishops, laymen, theologians, journalists... all have chimed in requesting that John Paul II remain as leader of the Church. From his closest collaborators, like Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, Substitute for Internal Affairs at the Vatican Secretariat of State, to the man who has leveled the most numerous criticisms against the Bishop of Rome -- Swiss dissident Hans Küng, have expressed the same desire: he must continue in his mission.

Resignation Disallowed

    Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, said that the Pope's experience in life and his prophetic charism disallow his resignation. He is not the head of a multinational, but the Pastor Christ has given his Church. "To fulfill this task, wisdom is necessary, something that increases with age, rather than diminishing." Cardinal Meisner explained, moreover, that on their last "ad limina" visit, the German bishops were impressed by the Holy Father's intellectual and spiritual strength. In addition, his age and illness give the sick and the elderly a sign of hope.

Merciless Attacks

    John Paul II may be "elderly and weak," but every day too much time is spent on investigating his "illness," according to historian Andrea Riccardi, founder of the St. Egidio Community. Riccardi's full comments will be published in tomorrow's issue of L'Osservatore Romano. This Pontiff "peers into 2000 with a dream, a plan and many ideas," Riccardi said.

Vatican Response

    For his part, Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, one of the men closest to the Pope in the daily guidance of the Church, surprised everyone by the speed with which he answered reporters who wanted comments on Bishop Lehmann's statements. The Italian Archbishop had not even had the chance to read the German Bishop's statements. But he responded to questions with aplomb: Bishop Lehmann could not have said something like that.

    The following day, when Rome received the original text transmitted on German public radio station "Deutschlandfunk," the Vatican did not respond. It simply translated into Italian the official statements, which helped to shed light on the press' distortion of news.

    One of the most interesting reactions was that of theologian Hans Küng, who has never dissimulated his opposition to the line followed by this pontificate. "I am against Karol Wojtyla's retirement," the former Tübingen professor said, as he does not think it wise to have a conclave while a Pope is still alive. When this Pope dies, he explained, the Cardinals will feel freer to choose his successor.

    Vittorio Messori, who interviewed the Pope for the book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," said that the Pontiff "is doing much more than he should during this Jubilee: he wants to preside over all the most important events, including those that his predecessors delegated to eminent Cardinals... It demonstrates that John Paul II wants to carry his cross during this Jubilee. And afterwards? God will provide."

    "For the time being, his closest collaborators and all who meet him affirm that the Pope is totally lucid, in spite of his physical limitations. Therefore, no resignation should be expected during this Jubilee Year," Messori said.

    Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, Archbishop Emeritus of Ravenna, said: "I, who know him, can say that the Pope is fully aware of the affairs of the world. He feels his responsibility profoundly and believes it is right to continue while he has the strength to stand up, without conserving his energies."

    The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Camillo Ruini, who is president of the Italian Episcopal Conference and also a close collaborator of the Holy Father, said that the Pope shows "that he is perfectly able to carry out with full personal responsibility his ministry of Universal Pastor of the Church. More than that, I can say that the Pope undertakes tasks, at the price of exhaustion and sacrifice, that he is not obliged to carry out personally." One proof of this was the recent Synod for Europe, held in Rome in October, when the Holy Father did not miss a single session. Much younger bishops had difficulty following him on that marathon.

    "Your Holiness, we need you," were the words that sprang to the lips of the Dean of the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, the ambassador of San Marino, on behalf of the 170 ambassadors of countries around the world. ZE00011106


January 12, 2000
volume 10, no. 8

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