The Meaning of Pope Benedict XVI’s Death for MANA

Pope Benedict XVI served the Roman Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013

The Vatican announced the death of Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, December 31, 2022. For most Protestants this was a passing story that held little or no signifigance to because of what was perceived as a remote relationship that Protestants have with the Roman Catholic Church. And while the Ministerial Alliance of North Amityville and Vicinity are mostly non-catholic, it is worth mentioning that at its core the papacy is occupied by a minister who is called into service just like all ministers are called into service by God.

The Roman Catholic Church had been often criticized for its layers of clergy hierarchy that includes parish priests to Cardinals and yes, even the papacy, but at the base of the papal office is the office of minister in the Lord’s Church. When Pope Benedict resigned in 2013, the first time such an event had taken place in over 600 years, a theological controversy was immediately launched because of the doctrine of “papal infallibility” that had long been practiced by the Roman Catholic Church for over a thousand years. Laity and clergy alike wondered how that idea that the pope can not be wrong (which is what infallibility of the pope teaches) would be honored if there were two living popes raising the prospect of what would happen if they did not agree on a particular item.

It seems that the doctrine was never put to the test because there was never any public disagreement between the two popes. Pope Benedict retired to quiet monastery and was rarely, if ever, heard from once he went into retirement. Vatican sources now say that he was visited often be the current pope and the two had frequent conversations that remained between the two.

For the members of MANA the death of the former pope is significant because the Ministerial Alliance of North Amityville and Vicinity is made up of a number of ministers from a variety of denominations and traditions. Virtually all of those traditions can trace their history back to the Roman Catholic Church if for no other reason than the architect and founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, was a Roman Catholic priest before he launched what we now refer to as the Protestant Reformation.

Consequently, one of the reasons we are respected and recognized as ministers in our local situations is because of the recognition that has been afforded ministers for over a thousand years before most of our denominations or traditions were even established. Sometimes we are tempted to believe that all of church history consists of Jesus and his disciples and jumps to whomever it was that started our tradition or denomination, skipping over hundreds of years of history that explains how we got to where we are now. Even though we are not Catholic, we can still recognize and respect the fact that Catholicism has been one of the essential bridges that has brought us to where we are today. Whether we are Methodist, Baptist, Holiness, Pentecostal, Apostolic or Independent we all are branches of the family tree where Roman Catholicism is the trunk of that.

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