Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What's in the name? 

Welcome to the new parlor game: trying to guess the meaning behind Cardinal Ratzinger's choice of Benedict as his papal name.

Agence France-Presse leads off with this theory:

"In choosing the name Benedict XVI, Germany's Joseph Ratzinger has harked back to history, with the previous Benedict being an Italian who steered the Catholic Church through the pain of World War I...

"Benedict XV, Giacomo Della Chiesa, became pontiff in 1914 and led the Church through most of the four-year conflict and the initial period of peace which followed... In 1917 he floated a peace plan which was rejected by both sides in the Great War. Undeterred, he devoted himself to international reconciliation in the wake of the conflict."
Appropriately, there is French angle there, too: "During his relatively brief papacy of seven years he also canonized the 15th-century French heroine Joan of Arc in 1920, which helped thaw the Vatican's relations with France and led to diplomatic ties being restored."

Meanwhile, in "The Independent", Catholic journalist
Catherine Pepinster speculates:

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - Pope Benedict XVI - is a Pope for Europe. It cannot be by chance that he has taken the name of Benedict, patron saint of Europe, for his papal title. As prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post he held under the late Pope John Paul II for 23 years, Joseph Ratzinger became increasingly concerned about the secularisation of Europe, the threats to its very Christian soul."
It is somewhat ironic that Benedict XV, the European peacemaker, had a statue erected in his honor in Istanbul as "the benefactor of all people, regardless of nation or creed", while the new Benedict XVI has voiced his opposition to Muslim Turkey joining the Christian Europe in the European Union. "Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe," he told "Le Figaro" last year.

Ratzinger, who also doesn't think much of multiculturalism ("fleeing from what is one's own"), obviously has a different vision of Europe to that of the Paris-Berlin axis. Benedict, the patron saint of Christian Europe, and Benedict, the papal conciliator and bridge-builder, seem not to sit too comfortably with each other. Time will tell which Benedict will prove to be the stronger and more lasting inspiration for Ratzinger.

Now imagine if American Presidents would have to choose new names when assuming office. I wonder if George W Bush would have chosen to call himself President Ronald II.


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