Firstly, we hear that Cardinals with the responsibility to elect the new Pope will hear the full truth of the Vatileaks scandal and the report of the commission put in charge of gathering information on the document leaks that placed distrust and suspicion at the heart of Vatican life. The contents - under code of papal secrecy thus far - will be made known to the Cardinals on 1 March. This could, for obvious reasons, effect the choice of the election of Benedict XVI's successor and could also 'narrow the field' somewhat in terms of that choice.
Secondly, we hear, too, that there will be some alterations to the ritual for Benedict XVI's successor's inauguration as the new Pontiff. CNS tells us today that:
'Pope Benedict XVI has ordered several changes to the Masses and liturgies that will mark the inauguration of the next pope's pontificate. Rites and gestures that are not strictly sacramental will take place either before a Mass or in a ceremony not involving Mass, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, told the Vatican newspaper Feb. 22. One of the most visual changes, he said, would be the restoration of the public "act of obedience" in which each cardinal present at the pope's inaugural Mass comes forward and offers his allegiance.'
Having recently lamented the sins of disunity, pride and self-promotion within the Church during a homily at St Peter's, the Holy Father is paving the way for his Successor, the fitter and younger man to fill Peter's shoes, carefully. I think we can safely assume that all is not well within the Vatican and that the Holy Father, who spoke of his earnest desire not to "flee for fear of the wolves" at the beginning of his Pontificate is now fully aware of who the enemies of his papacy are and would not wish what His Holiness has experienced to be visited upon any Successor - not even his enemies.
His Eminence Cardinal O'Brien has been on TV thinking aloud on the issue on what His Eminence deems to be the potential prospect of the next Pope addressing the issue of married priests, clergy and priestly celibacy.
The Holy Father has not even properly stepped down yet - he will vacate the Chair of Peter on 28th February - and already some very senior figures in the Catholic Church in England, Wales and now Scotland are sowing some confusing seeds in the media, giving the impression, at the very least, that the Catholic Church is deeply divided on some quite important issues. Is it really helpful or wise for Cardinals and Bishops to exploit or seize the twilight of Pope Benedict XVI's reign to advance such controversial and divisive 'debates' in the world's media or attempt to 'set the agenda' for the next Pope? Is this the time for such statements? In Lent? With the Holy Father still on the Chair of St Peter? Is the BBC the forum for such statements to be made? Does this not foster confusion and assist the Church's enemies? Could this even be called 'dissent'?
It is an excellent idea of Pope Benedict XVI to ensure Cardinals take an 'act of obedience' to his Successor. Funnily enough, Cardinal Keith O'Brien made a similar 'act of obedience' - or rather 'profession of faith' when he was made Cardinal by Blessed Pope John Paul II on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, 7 October 2003. In the light of what His Eminence has said, it makes for interesting reading:
'Furthermore, I having been called to be Cardinal by pope John Paul II, state that I firmly hold and maintain all and everything taught by the Holy Catholic Church concerning faith and morals, whether solemnly defined or asserted as part of her ordinary Magisterium, especially those doctrines touching the mystery of the Church as the Body of Christ, the Sacraments, the sacrifice of the Mass and the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.
I further state that I accept and intend to defend the law on ecclesiastical celibacy as it is proposed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church; I accept and promise to defend the ecclesiastical teaching about the immorality of the homosexual act; I accept and promise to promulgate always and everywhere what the Church's Magisterium teaches on contraception. So help me God and these Holy Scriptures which I touch with my hand.'
Oh dear! Ah well, its only an 'act of obedience', isn't it? A little act of disobedience isn't anything to worry about. Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church, pray for us. For those who share the Holy Father's genuine and deep concern for the Bride of Christ and who, today, feel saddened by recent statements by senior figures in the Church's Hierarchy, you can watch a lovely slideshow of Pope Benedict XVI's life here. While you watch it, pray for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, pray for his Successor and pray for the Universal Church.
H/T Protect the Pope