Official Statement from the Bishop Mylo Vergara of the Diocese of Pasig
Message of His Excellency, Most Rev. Mylo Hubert Vergara, D.D., Bishop of Pasig on the announced resignation of the Holy Father, Pope Benerdict XVI
February 12, 2013
Tuesday, 5th Week in Ordinary Time
Dear People of God,
Early this morning, before I celebrated the 5am mass at Pasig Cathedral, I was still nursing the “shock” I felt when Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will resign and step down from his office as Roman Pontiff of the Universal Church on February 28, a few days from now. I told myself, “This is really the ‘Year of Faith.’” What a moment to exercise a pure act of faith! I was searching for an answer about this seemingly incomprehensible decision and action of the Holy Father, considering that the last resignation of a pope happened around 600 years ago. As I presided over the mass, and contemplated on the readings of the Liturgy of the Word, I heard God’s answer.
The first reading from the Book of Genesis once again recounts the creation story from an Old Testament author who wanted to project or paint a picture of what happened when God created the world (Gen 1:20-2:4a). And as the story goes, after completing his great masterpiece, God rested on the seventh day. This author of Genesis sort of depicted a God who still had human qualities and needed to rest. Like God who laboriously created the world and rested afterwards, perhaps, we can look at Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, as an honest and truthful recognition that, amidst all the hard work for the Church and old age, he needs to rest. In fact, he admitted: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
But aside from this, and more importantly, there is a striking and powerful message of the Pope’s resignation that we should take to heart. It is nothing else but HUMILITY. His resignation is a humble gesture that recognizes his physical limitations and his realization that another pope, with “strength of mind and body”, could do a better work for the Church, given the demands of the rapidly changing times of this new millennium.
The gospel for today shows Jesus criticizing the proud and hypocritical Pharisees who clung to the external performance of their religious traditions (Mark 7:1-13). They looked down on Jesus and his disciples who did not observe the ritual washing. They wanted to show off and be honored by people. What a stark contrast to the humble action and message of our beloved Pope Benedict! In resigning as Supreme Pontiff, the Holy Father is teaching us: It is okay to admit that you are physically weak and you need to retire. It is okay to let go of the position and power you have for the greater good of the Church. It is okay to pass on the baton of service to another who can do greater things for God and his people.
The message of Pope Benedict XVI speaks to all of us—to leaders of governments who cling to power because they think they are indispensable, to our local officials who have political dynasties and do not want to be unseated in the coming elections, to those who glory in their titles and testaments that win them applause and adulation, and, even, to bishops, priests, religious and lay servant leaders who use ecclesiastical authority to manipulate people and hurt those they serve. Thank you, Pope Benedict, for teaching us to be humble.
Tomorrow it will be Ash Wednesday and we enter the Holy Season of Lent. Jesus will challenge each of us to a new way of humble praying, humble fasting, and humble almsgiving—not like what the Pharisees did. I hope this holy season forms us to humility. Let us humble ourselves before God and, with deep faith, rely on his love and mercy.
Pope Benedict, we love you and we pray for you. We also humbly pray for your successor to the Petrine ministry.