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Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says,
THANK YOU POPE BENEDICT WELCOME POPE FRANCIS
By Paul Vadakumpadan
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Shillong, Mar. 15. We are living through historic days.

THANK YOU POPE BENEDICT
WELCOME POPE FRANCIS

Pope Benedict XVI has broken with tradition and decided to resign from his office due to age and failing health. In fact, he had already hinted at this possibility in a long interview given to Peter Seewald some years ago, published as a book under the title Light of the World: ``When the danger is great one must not run away...one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation...One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on...If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign`` (pp29-30).

We cannot but appreciate the humility and spiritual depth behind such words. Pope Benedict taught as much with his example as with his writings. A great theologian, no doubt and a saint too. Despite the advanced age at which he was called to the Petrine ministry, he led the Church with great dedication and effectiveness through turbulent times. His repeated call to the new evangelisation underscored his commitment to the cause of Christ, his good news. The Church exists precisely to witness to and share that good news. We praise and thank God for giving us such a missionary Pope at this moment of history when the dictatorship of relativism and the forces of secularism seem to drown the faith in some parts of the world. Thank you Pope Benedict.

Pope Francis comes from a different part of the world. Following in the footsteps of his humble predecessor, this humble shepherd too has been called by the Holy Spirit to lead the challenge of the new evangelisation. I was touched to see him bowing in prayer in front of the huge gathering assembled to see him soon after his election.  In the few words he uttered from the loggia of St. Peter`s there was a missionary programme. He spoke of ``The journey of the Church...Rome presiding in charity...a path of brotherhood, of love, of trust...evangelisation....`` The brotherhood he spoke of is, indeed, the heart of the missionary challenge before us all.``It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples`` (Jn 13:35).

The winner in this election was the Holy Spirit. He had chosen a Pope and the cardinals dutifully accepted that decision. Was there a loser in this election? I am afraid sections of the secular media lost and lost badly. It was interesting, even funny to listen to several of the comments that were made. One question often raised was Why doesn`t the Church modernise herself? On further scrutiny, I found they were not referring to the famous chimney over the Sistine chapel. Instead what they wanted was a loosening of moral principles and discipline. It was as if by abolishing traffic rules, we would reduce traffic accidents. However attractive it may sound, the so-called modernisation is hollow. There is no great challenge in swimming with the current. To teach mankind to do that we do not need a Church or a Pope. Jesus did not come to make life easy but to make people great, as great as children of God. The good news is truly new, because it challenges men to swim against the current.

Pope Francis seems to have other ideas of modernisation. In 2001 when he was made a Cardinal, hundreds of Argentinians began raising funds to fly to Rome, to pay homage to their new Cardinal. He stopped them. He told them to remain at home and give the money they had raised to the poor. When he was Archbishop, the luxurious Episcopal residence remained empty. He lived in a nearby apartment, with an old and sickly bishop. In the evening he cooked food for the two of them.

This is evangelical  modernisation. Francis of Assisi lived over 800 years ago. But he is still modern. Pope Francis has understood that type of  modernisation, based on fundamental evangelical values. That will lead to true reform and lasting renewal in the Church.  Welcome Pope Francis to the Petrine ministry.

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