We are in a unique period of history. For the first time in the church’s history, at least in a time period when we are not in schism, we have two popes, one active and one retired.
There can be no doubt that Pope Francis is the pontiff. He is the legitimately elected Vicar of Christ and has been since March 13, 2013. And there can be no doubt that our beloved Benedict XVI had resigned on Feb. 11, 2013. These are facts that cannot be disputed, and neither of these popes would argue against them.
Would it have been neater and easier for us to understand if Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI gave up his papal name and the white cassock and called himself Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Bishop-Emeritus of Rome? Perhaps, but that is not what happened.
We have one pope — Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis. We are blessed with a Pope-Emeritus, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now known as Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI.
They are not at odds. We need to stop pitting them at odds with each other, as if the church has two different political parties.
The church is different than a government. Yes, it is temporal, and yes, it is hierarchical, but above all else, she is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the People of God. She is the image of the new and heavenly Jerusalem. She is sinless and perfect, although we who make up the church are sinners.
The church has no “Republicans,” no “Democrats,” no “conservatives,” no “liberals,” only the Children of God. Do not let any films or news sites or even commentators try to convince you otherwise. The church is the Bride of Christ. The Lord and Master holds his Bride in his strong arms and protects her. The church is the Body of Christ, led and fed by the Eucharist we share. The church is the People of God, incorporated by the Body of Christ through our dying with him in baptism and rising to new life.
Yes, the church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, and the Vicar of Christ is Pope Francis. We rejoice in the life and the ministry of the one who is perhaps the greatest Roman Catholic mind in our contemporary age, Pope Benedict, and we pray for his long, happy, healthy, holy life. Benedict and Francis are not at odds; they are not enemies; they are not a papal “Odd Couple;” they are God’s choice for our church, and we are blessed by both of them, no matter what Netflix tells us.