Last week, we celebrated two years in the Petrine office for Pope Francis and as is his way, he gave an interview to a television network, Televisa.
In the course of the interview, the Holy Father stated: “I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief… four or five years. I don’t know, even two or three.” And further, “Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed, and if he wins, he’s happy,” Francis said. “But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more… But I always leave the possibility open.”
The idea of having two pope emeriti is staggering! But the reality is there. People (and that includes popes, too!) are living longer – and even with longer lives, perhaps can recognize when they are no longer able to complete the tasks to which they are assigned. This was the humility of Pope Benedict XVI. He knew that his vocation at this point in his life is to pray, not to lead and that the task of the papacy at this juncture would best be accomplished in the hands of another man.
We pray that Francis has a long, healthy, active pontificate. In two short years, one needs only to look to see all the good that he has accomplished, building on the foundation laid by the Second Vatican Council, and its subsequent popes, St. John XXIII, Blessed Paul VI, John Paul I, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. Pope Francis is in direct continuity with the Second Vatican Council, with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and with his predecessors. We believe that this pope, with his openness, his informality and his willingness to dialogue while still standing firm in the teachings of the Church, is the perfect choice for our digital age of instant communications. Look at the number of people that are attracted to him. Now it’s our task to bring these people who have been away from the Church or who have never even considered the Church, to know Christ Jesus in the sacraments and in the institutional Church. He can show us the Shepherd’s care and guidance, but it’s our task, each in our own unique vocations.
So with two years in, we say to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, “Ad Multos Annos!” May he continue to challenge us, surprise us, amaze us and above all, pray for us and love us, his flock. We pray for many more years of a healthy pontificate for Pope Francis and for health and peace for Pope Emeritus Benedict.