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Mar 18, 2013

Goodbye Pope Benedict, hello Pope Francis

You might be wondering why it has taken me more than a month to pen down my thoughts on the resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Just one reason - I dreaded saying goodbye. It is even more so when I've been so used to Benedict XVI. Eight years of pontificate - that is not a short time!

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
But I do have a confession to make. When Benedict XVI was elected Pope, he didn't appeal much to me as I was still grieving the loss of my most beloved John Paul II. Even when I saw him up close during World Youth Day Sydney in 2008, I wasn't really impressed. However, ever since I started working in the media office of the archdiocese about four years ago, I've grown rather fond of Benedict XVI. How can I not? I had to follow him almost everyday, to keep track of what was going on in the HQ - the Vatican. Since then I grew to love him and his teachings gradually.

That sudden announcement of his resignation had definitely shaken me. I still can vividly recall what happened that day. It was the second day of Chinese New Year. My friends and I were visiting another friend when I got a text message, saying that the Pope was resigning. I was having a mild headache then due to the warm weather. But after I received the message and verified that the news wasn't a hoax, my headache worsened - it was so bad that I had to take the painkiller (painkiller is never my favourite unless the pain has gone more than I can bear). Yes, it was THAT bad; I was shocked beyond words and heartbroken. It felt as if I was being disowned by my father!

While my heart wanted so much that he would stay, I knew he just had to go. I was very sad, but at the same time I admired him for his courage to admit that he could no longer carry out the petrine ministry entrusted to him. I believe he made the right decision - not that he was running away from the many scandals that surfaced throughout the years; it was the total opposite. He knew his strength was failing, and if he continued to hold on to the office, he could be the stumbling block of the Church. This humble Servant of God is a great example for all of us, especially for our politicians here in Malaysia as they fight for power among themselves.

Dearest Pope Emeritus Benedict, we can never thank you enough for the sacrifices you've made as the Vicar of Christ, as our shepherd... my shepherd. Seeing you off on 28 February was simply painful. I watched as you gave your final blessing to the crowd at Castel Gandolfo. We saw you turning away and disappearing from our sight... did you hear our hearts breaking? I pray that you will have all the rest you deserved. I'm happy for you too, now that you can live the life you've always wanted. Hopefully you will be writing more books to share your thoughts and reflections with all of us who love to read your writings. You are in our hearts always! We are joining you in your prayers for the Church and for the new Pope, your successor.

Pope Francis - our new Holy Father
I prayed intensely with and for the Cardinals ever since the resignation of Pope Benedict, and I believe many Catholics out there did the same too. I was aware of the St Malachi's prophecy. I read about a group of cardinals since Benedict XVI's time who wanted to have things their way. Not sure how true they were, but whatever I was reading and hearing definitely worried me. I feared the Church - our Church - would fall into the wrong hands.

I followed the "Smoke Watch" during the Conclave anxiously. Unfortunately, I missed the white smoke and the "Habemus Papam" announcement, but I was just in time to watch the newly elected pope on the balcony as he ended his address and blessed the people. I leapt for joy as I saw this new shepherd of mine. The days that followed were even more exciting. I took every opportunity to follow the online broadcast of his first Mass, his audiences with the cardinals and the media, his Mass at Sant'Anna church and his first Angelus. I not just read about his humility and simplicity, but witnessed it through his speeches and his meetings with the people. Well, it was all because of Pope Francis that I did not have enough sleep for the past few days!!

This is the first time for me to follow the Conclave so closely! Undoubtedly, Pope Francis is the result of my prayer and yours - the prayer of the whole Church. Perhaps, it is our unity in prayer that we come into a communion with each other. Even though we have only seen him on the screen (through live broadcasts) and we do not know him personally, a special bond between us and this shepherd is formed. We already love him although he's just in the office for a few days. Of course, this is just the beginning. We still need to be united in our prayers for the Holy Father so that he is able to carry this heavy responsibility which he accepted from the the hands of the Lord.

Christina Mead of LifeTeen in her post A Father Like Francis said it all - we need Pope Francis not only because we are Catholics, but because we "need a constant reminder how to be like Christ".
Since Pope Francis is a visible sign of Christ's authority on earth, putting our trust in him is to put our trust in the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis is an authority figure that we can feel safe placing our trust in. I have.

Source: LifeTeen
 And so have I. What about you? :)
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