By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published April 28, 2005
The Scripture readings for the week focused on the Good Shepherd, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said April 20, and how timely that as the Catholic Church receives Pope Benedict XVI as her new pope, Catholics have clearly in mind the qualities the Lord expects of those “who have the courage to tend the flock in His name.”
At a Mass of the archdiocese for the new pope, the archbishop said this would be only the first expression among many of prayer and support for Pope Benedict XVI, as “from now on we shall pray for him at every Mass.”
“We also ask the Holy Spirit to rest upon him and to strengthen him and bring him great comfort and peace in this new ministry that he has begun for the Church of Christ,” Archbishop Gregory said.
“Pope Benedict XVI comes to the Petrine Office with a rich legacy of service as teacher, pastor, disciple, and administrator. He knows the challenges that face the Church and he has an enviable history of responding to those challenges. He is an experienced pastor having cared for the local Church of Munich (Germany) with fidelity and joy. He understands the workings of the Church as a devoted servant to Pope John Paul II for more than two decades. But in spite of all of those qualifications, he too has listened to the 10th Chapter of St. John this week and heard what the Good Shepherd does for the flock for which he will lay down his life,” Archbishop Gregory said.
The pope “promises to bring the Light of Christ to all of those corners of the world where there is darkness, sin, fear, doubt, and timidity. He has already declared publicly that the Light of Christ is the most precious treasure that the Church possesses and that it must be shared freely and openly with every heart that seeks the truth.”
The Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta at 5:30 p.m., a day after the conclave of 115 voting-age cardinals elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as the 265th pope of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Ratzinger, a native of Germany, selected the name of Pope Benedict XVI, reflecting both upon St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, and on Pope Benedict XV, who served from 1914-22.
“The Church rejoiced yesterday when on the loggia of Saint Peter’s Basilica, a new Pope made his first appearance,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Benedict XVI begins his Petrine ministry as the Church has the fresh image of the Good Shepherd before our eyes and renewed in our hearts. The Holy Father takes up the task of caring for the flock at a moment when the flock has been reassured by the One who is uniquely the Good Shepherd as to the qualities of what makes for a trustworthy shepherd of souls.”
The Cathedral was draped in gold and white bunting and large vases of roses and other flowers in complementary colors were placed in the sanctuary. Cathedral musicians sang, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church.” Prayer cards were given to those attending expressing the new pope’s first request: “Most of all, I rely on your prayers.”
Those gathering for the Mass expressed belief in the Holy Spirit’s action in guiding the selection of the new pope and also a sense that Pope Benedict’s forceful articulation of church doctrine principally reflects unavoidable conflict between the Gospel and the secular world.
Msgr. Hugh Marren, pastor of St. Andrew Church, Roswell, said emphatically, “It is a new pope we have—not a new church. It is not a new Gospel.”
“The pope as the vicar of Christ does not preach his own message. It is the message of the Gospel of Christ,” he said before the Mass began. “I want people to trim their lives to suit the Gospel, not trim the Gospel to suit their lives.”
“Is the Gospel tough?” he asked rhetorically. “Then he’s going to be tough. We have to build our lives on the truth, not on sand. When the wind blows, we want a firm foundation. I don’t think he’s any more tough than the Gospel. He said that truth not tempered by mercy becomes a clanging cymbal. He will preach the truth and he will be tempered by mercy. We have a new pope, not a new church.”
Keri Allen, director of adult education and evangelization at the Cathedral, said Pope John Paul II spoke the truth with love and “I believe Pope Benedict XVI will carry on with that same integrity.”
“The truth is the truth. It doesn’t change. The pope cannot waver on the doctrines and the dogmas,” she said.
Humanly, she added, “truth calls us to change and that’s hard, that’s difficult.”
In the process of electing a new pope, the Holy Spirit is at work, Allen added. “We have to believe whoever was elected was elected by the Holy Spirit … God knows what he is doing.”
The new pope needs the prayers and support of the whole church for the difficult task of being the chief shepherd. “I believe we have to support Benedict XVI.”
Patty Miles, a parishioner at Holy Cross Church in Atlanta, was drawn to the Mass for the new pope.
“I think it is so beautiful the way the Holy Spirit works and (how) we got a pope so quickly,” she said, cradling her 8-month-old son, Thomas. “I truly trust the Holy Spirit. He (Pope Benedict XVI) is the man we need right now. I heard him speak (from the balcony of St. Peter’s) and it was beautiful.”
She and her husband help run a program called Familia in which couples study the writings and encyclicals of Pope John Paul II on life, on marriage and on family. Although the late pope at times was criticized as “out of touch,” she said they have found the opposite to be true in their own marriage and in their work with other couples. “We’ve seen so many people changed by his teachings.”
She is pleased Pope Benedict XVI worked closely with his predecessor and reflects continuity in the church.
“It’s great to have a shepherd again,” she said.
Businesswoman Doreen Miller, 38, in Atlanta for a chemical company meeting, wanted to pray with the church universal upon the election of the new pope although she couldn’t be with her own Catholic community in Milwaukee, Wis.
“I really think it is important to pray for our new pope,” said Miller. “I just want to do everything I can to ensure the church goes on, and to pray for Catholics that we can accept him, that there is unity within the walls of the church, and in Christianity, and in the world.”
She added, “I pray for the Holy Spirit to impress on our new pope to lead us in whatever direction God wants us to go.”
Deacon Hung Viet Huynh from Our Lady of Vietnam Church in Riverdale assisted Archbishop Gregory at the Mass.
“In my opinion, I think it is good for us and good for the church,” the deacon said. “At this time, we have so many issues. He is a strong man in his belief in doctrine. I think we are blessed to have him.”
He liked the fact the new pope spoke almost immediately about working on ecumenical and interfaith relationships, particularly between Christians and Muslims. “I think so far he brings a lot of hope.”
Father Balappa Selvaraj, pastor of St. Peter Church, LaGrange, said, “Christ has promised us, ‘I will be with you until the end of the world.’ That is the confidence I have. The church is not mine. It is Christ’s. It is always a blessing to realize Christ is in charge … Humanly, I am delighted. Divinely, everything is the providence of God.”