Two events left a special mark on the first half of 2013: the announcement of Benedict XVI’s resignation from the See of Peter, on February 11, and the election of Pope Francis as the new Roman Pontiff, on March 13. In his final general audience, Benedict XVI said that “the Pope is never alone . . . The Pope belongs to everyone and so many persons feel very close to him.” This reality has been clearly seen in both events, which have been a spur for the Catholic faithful, and also for many other people of good will, to pray with greater intensity for St. Peter’s successor—the bishop of Rome—and for Christ’s Church. Pope Francis said after his election that during the conclave “from every corner of the earth fervent prayers have been offered up by the Christian people for the new Pope.” God listened to the prayers of his children and has granted the Church another Shepherd. Thus a new link has been added to the long chain connecting us to the Prince of the apostles, to that fisherman from Galilee whom Christ made the visible foundation of his Church.
“Christ. Mary. The Pope. Haven’t we just indicated, in three words, the loves that make up the entire Catholic faith?” This statement, written down by the founder of Opus Dei in 1934, stems from his deep conviction that we need to “love tenderly the Pope, il dolce Cristo in terra as St. Catherine of Siena . . . liked to repeat,” and that this love is an important part of our relationship with Christ and his Church. He never ceased insisting that we have to love the Pope whomever he may be: omnes cum Petro. That love—truly theological—is based on the certainty that he is, by God’s will, the Vicar of Christ, the “visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion.” During his years at the head of the Prelature of Opus Dei, the Venerable Álvaro del Portillo—in continuity with and absolute fidelity to St. Josemaría—also insisted on this truth. In 1988, for example, he said that “remaining united to the Pope is the only way to be faithful to our Lord’s words, who assured us: super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. It is Christ who builds up the Church—and we with him—through the Holy Spirit, but on the foundation that he himself has placed. The only path for us is to act always cum Petro et sub Petro, in union with the Pope and subject to his authority.”
This conviction of our faith leads the Catholic faithful to express their love for the Roman Pontiff in specific signs of affection. In the first place, by praying each day for him and for his intentions. We have many opportunities for do so: for example, during Holy Mass—the sacrifice most pleasing to God—we pray explicitly for the Holy Father. News we receive about the Church can also be the occasion for being united with Peter. Everyone in the Church can and should help the Roman Pontiff to carry the weight of his ministry. As St. Josemaría said: “You must love, venerate, pray, and mortify yourself for the Pope, and do so with greater affection each day. For he is the foundation stone of the Church and, throughout the centuries, right to the end of time, he carries out among men that task of sanctifying and governing which Jesus entrusted to Peter.”
At the same time, our union with the Pope leads us to welcome his teachings and indications with a generous openness and availability. “Faithfulness to the Pope includes a clear and definite duty: that of knowing his thought, which he tells us in encyclicals or other documents. We have to do our part to help all Catholics pay attention to the teaching of the Holy Father, and bring their everyday behavior into line with it.” A good son or daughter of the Church wants to be informed about the Pope’s teachings. Luckily, present-day means of communication enable us to easily access his words. By knowing them well we will have many opportunities for apostolate, and by echoing the Pope in our own environment (even among those who may be far from the faith) we can help many people to take a greater interest in his teachings. Our Lord will make use of this effort of ours to lead many men and women to rediscover the beauty of the Church.
“In this moment filled with emotion, when the Church’s universality is vividly sensed,” said Bishop Echevarría on the occasion of the election of Pope Francis, “I reaffirm to the new Roman Pontiff complete adhesion to his person and ministry, with the certainty that I am expressing the sentiments of the faithful, both priests and laity, of the Prelature of Opus Dei. We all entrust ourselves to the prayers of His Holiness, in order to contribute effectively, with joyful availability, to the work of evangelization that the Pope referred to in his first greeting to the Church.”
This issue of Romana contains the last words spoken by Benedict XVI as Roman Pontiff and various homilies and audiences of Pope Francis. Also included are words from the Prelate of Opus Dei published in the media regarding the resignation of Benedict XVI and the election of the first Pope from the western hemisphere. There is also, of course, abundant news about St. Josemaria and the Prelature of Opus Dei. The issue ends with a study by Professor Armando Fumagalli on the challenges Christians face in the world of communications.