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6/2/2009 3:13 PM
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The Pope's remarks to children last Saturday that he never imagined he would be Pope have, of course, been reported in countless ways around the world in the past few days, though I limited myself on this thread to simply posting a full translation of his words, as nothing says it better. However, Luigi Accattoli has a beautiful little commentary on the Pope's remarks.

Papa Ratzinger tells children:
'I never imagined to be Pope'

by Luigi Accattoli
Translated from

June 2, 2009

Dear editor, I would ask your readers to memorize a line said by Benedict XVI on Saturday, addressing a crowd of children: "I never imagined to be Pope".

Because those words help to capture the lack of self-interest and the spiritual freedom with which he is carrying out his mission - someone who is answering a call that still surprises him.

There are a few facts preceding his election as Pope which substantiate the Pope's remarks last Saturday and attest that he indeed never thought of becoming Pope, not only as a child but even up to his election.

Let me set them out in order.

On Saturday, in an unscripted chat with 7,000 children belonging to the Italian and various European branches of the pontifical agency that promotes missionary work by children, a little girl asked him, "Did you ever think you wanted to be Pope when you were a boy?"

His answer:

To tell you the truth, I would never have thought of becoming Pope because, as I said earlier, I was a rather naive boy in a small town, in a forgotten province. We were happy to be there and we did not think of other things.

Of course, we knew, venerated and loved the Pope - it was Pius XI then - but for us, he was at an unreachable height, almost in another world - a father to us, but nonetheless, someone much more superior to us.

And I must say that even today, I find it difficult to understand how the Lord could have thought of me and destine me for this ministry. But I accept it from his hands, even if it is a surprising thing that seems very much beyond my powers. But the Lord helps me.

Was the dean of cardinals - who by April 2005, most of the media had included among the 'papabili' [earlier, he was routinely counted out by them for a variety of reasons, principally his age and that he was too polarizing] - really caught by surprise by his election, which was concluded on the fourth balloting 24 hours since the Conclave began?

I am convinced of it, and I would start from the black sweater that he wore under the white papal robes when he first appeared as Pope one hour after his election.

The emotion on his face and the black sweater sleeves were the first 'messages' to the world when he emerged on the Loggia of Benedictions that evening.

The sweater showed he came to the Conclave without even bringing a dress shirt, not thinking he would be chosen [or, at least, that he came to the Conclave that afternoon wearing a sweater instead of a shirt, indicating the same certainty.]

One of the assistants who helped him change into papal robes after the election said to him, "Holiness, I can give you my shirt." And he answered, "No. I will go this way." [According to another account, he added, "I feel cold."]

'This way' was As 'a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord', as he would present himself.

It was well known that he could not wait to return to Bavaria to enjoy the last season of his life in peace with his brother Georg in that semi-rural house that they had acquired outside Regensburg.

He expressed that desire on dozens of occasions in public - first when he was ending his third five-year term in the Roman Curia, then as the fourth term ended, then on his 70th birthday, then again on his 75th birthday.

But Papa Wojtyla would not let him go, and he obeyed.

Less known is that in a little book called Images of Hope published in Germany in 1997 when he turned 70 (translated in Italian in 1999), he wrote, as if his return to Bavaria was imminent, these words, "During the years I spent in Rome...."

Also from 1997 is his autobiographical memoir La Mia Vita [Milestones in English], which closes with a retelling of the legend of St. Corbinian's bear, which was on his coat of arms as cardinal, and subsequently, on his papal coat of arms.

The Bavarian monk Corbinian was on his way to Rome when he came across a bear which killed his mount, most likely a mule, and the saint ordered the bear to take the place of the mule.

Cardinal Ratzinger ended his book by observing:

It is said of Corbinian that once in Rome, he again released the bear to its freedom. The legend is not concerned about whether it went up into the Abruzzi or returned to the Alps.

In the meantime I have carried my load to Rome and have now been wandering the streets of the Eternal City for a long time. I do not know when I will be released, but one thing I know: that St. Augustine's exclamation applies to me, too: "I have become your donkey [God's], and in just this way am I with you".

The theologian Pope returned to the legend of Corbinian's bear on Sept, 9, 2006, addressing the crowd in Munich: "St. Corbinian's bear was set free in Rome. But in my case the Master has decided otherwise."

I find something Biblical - the Lord takes one where one does not necessarily wish to be - in the 'call' to the Pontificate which caught Joseph Ratzinger by surprise at the age of 78.

In his undertaking of a position he did not seek, I see the most fascinating aspect of Pope Benedict's mission: the sign of a complete readiness which means a complete openness - beyond expectations, beyond settled views.

Avvenire, of course, gave due play to the Pope's chat with the children in its Sunday issue, which also came with this sditorial.

A little'scandalous' dialog
between a child and the Pope

Translated from

May 31, 2009

Dialog between a child and Benedict XVI: "Did you ever think you wanted to be Pope?"

And he: "I would never have thought of it... But I accepted it from God's hands, even if it is a surprising thing that seems very much beyond my powers. But the Lord helps me."

As anyone who has children knows, children often ask the most genuine questions: those that strip us bare and force us to look within ourselves.

So, did you ever think you wanted to be Pope? No, Benedict XVI replied with a smile, going back to his boyhood in pre-war Germany: "No... I was a rather naive boy in a small town...."

But the Pope goes beyond this statement to say, "I still find it difficult to understand why the Lord chose me" - which reveals a recurrent interior questioning, from the time he was elected as the Successor of Peter, perhaps from those few hours when it became clear that the votes were converging in his favor.

"Why me? This is a task that is beyond my powers" - the secret travail of a Pope's conscience, disclosed by a child's question.

And perhaps there are those who would be surprised and a bit puzzled: The Pope saying his job is far beyond his own abilities? Who asks himself 'why me?'? One cannot imagine heads of state and presidents of multinationals asking themselves such questions.

Men in power usually do not have such questions about themselves. And if someone asked them and they had to answer honestly, they would say, "I am where I am because I am the best, the most intelligent, the most able, the most astute. I am where I am because of my extraordinary merit and becasue of the way I constructed my personal life".

[Oh, I heard exactly that, just yesterday!, from someone who also said that in his first four months as President, he had done more than anyone ever had! Of course, he also said spoke that way about himself every day during the two years he spent campaigning for the position.]

Instead, the man on Peter's chair thinks differently. He thinks as one who was chosen mysteriously for his task, something he never imagined for himself, and which seems to him far beyond his abilities.
But one, nonetheless, who follows a plan above his own, certain that God helps him. The outlook expressed in the Pope's words is radical.

It spells the difference betweem a life led as a self-centered project and one as a compliance with God's plan to which one freely adheres.

'In the world', the first perspective is widespread, even obligatory - that drive to follow one's will, one's desire to have all 'the power and the glory'. In such a view, the Pope's answers may indeed seem incomprehensible.

This Pope did not 'carry himself' to where he is, nor did he work to get there. He was called and put in place according to a mysterious plan, which he has accepted in order to serve the Church.

Christians know there is a plan for each of us - whether humble, seemingly common, or extaordinary, it is never irrerlevant. Man's response to such a plan is called vocation, a calling: each of us has his own, we are each called to a specific mission within which to realize our life. Not only for one's self, but for others. Every life is a service to others.

This idea of human destiny may seem scandalous to many in a time where freedom only means the worship and satisfaction of one's own inclinations, tastes and preferences.

But for the Christian, destiny lies in saying Yes, in obedience to the divine will.

Now, obedience is a word that for years has been out of favor: "The very idea is passe, it is unspeakabale, it should be banned. What an absurdity! I alone am the master of my own destiny. And God - if there is one at all - has nothing to do with my life!" So goes the secular creed.

And yet... "I still find it difficult to understand how the Lord could have thought of me..." This little dialog between a child and a Christian says it all.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 6/2/2009 4:45 PM]
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