De­mys­ti­fy­ing the Pa­pacy

The Church of England - - ENGLAND -

Ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view Rowan Wil­liams gave to Vat­i­can Ra­dio, Pope Bene­dict’s re­tire­ment did not come as a sur­prise. Bishop Rowan says that in their last con­ver­sa­tion he sensed that the Pope was be­gin­ning to think ‘Is it pos­si­ble to carr y on with a good con­science?’ The bishop re­vealed that he had given the Pope ad­vanced warn­ing of his own res­ig­na­tion and of­fered his re­flec­tions on the first pa­pal res­ig­na­tion for 600 years, ar­gu­ing that it ‘de­mys­ti­fies the pa­pacy’. “The pope is not like a king who goes on to the end,” he said. “The min­istry of ser­vice that the Bishop of Rome ex­er­cises is just that, a min­istry of ser­vice and there­fore it is rea­son­able to ask if there is a moment when some­body else should take the ba­ton in hand.” As Rowan Wil­liams out­lined the mat­ter, there could well be ec­u­meni­cal im­pli­ca­tions in the Pope’s ac­tions if it leads to a re­turn to ‘the prim­i­tive po­si­tion of the Bishop of Rome as the ser­vant of the unity of the Church, of the bishop who con­venes, me­di­ates be­tween and man­ages the fel­low­ship of bish­ops’, what he called a ‘slightly more func­tional, slightly less the­o­log­i­cally top heavy pic­ture’.

Bishop Rowan spoke warmly of Pope Bene­dict but many have been less com­pli­men­tary, although few as gone as far as Joseph Bot­tun, for­merly ed­i­tor of the con­ser­va­tive monthly First Things, who wrote in the neo-con­ser­va­tive Weekly Stan­dard that as far as gov­er­nance is con­cerned Bene­dict was ‘as bad as a pope has been in 200 years’.

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