Benedict XVI is offering extraordinary leadership on liturgy and the environment

Benedict XVI has charmed the faithful with his holiness and humility (PA photo)

Yesterday I had the great pleasure and honour of celebrating the Mass for the Pope “especially on the anniversary of election”, as the newly translated Roman Missal has it. In my edition, the Mass is to be found on page 1304.

Seven years have passed since Josef Ratzinger was raised to the throne of Peter. As one who has loyalty to the Pope in his DNA, I think it has been a great, even an exciting, seven years. Benedict XVI has got a vision for the Church, and this has been advanced on several fronts.

Firstly, he wants the liturgy to be the place where we experience the touch of the divine more visibly and more easily than heretofore. This is now happening, thanks to Summorum Pontificum, the new translation of the Roman Missal, and, perhaps most importantly of all, the intangible sense that there is abroad that we ought to take care and time in preparing for the liturgy, and ensure we celebrate it with as much dignity as possible.

Second, he is the Pope of Christian unity; here we have Anglicanorum coetibus as the guiding light that will re-establish unity with those who have longed for it for decades. Thanks to the Pope, this can now happen. It will be a slow process, but it has begun, and it will continue.

Third, he is the Pope of dialogue. He has underlined the need for proper dialogue with the world of Islam and he has established a firm basis for it in all his speeches on the topic, especially that famous Regensberg lecture. This is a welcome development. Likewise, he has made several efforts to engage at a substantive level with unbelievers, which has had some success outside the English-speaking world, where such academic endeavours command a degree of respect.

Finally, though many have not paid attention to this, he has made some interesting theological interventions on environmental questions. (You can read about that here.)

Perhaps most visibly of all, the Pope has won the hearts and minds of many ordinary Catholics and many non-Catholics too with his charm and humility. This was always something of a well-kept secret when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, but even in those days people who bumped into him in the street always came away with a warm impression of his character. Now vast crowds have experienced his warmth, which springs, I think, from his holiness of life.

I have never met the Pope, sadly, but I love and admire him. Long may he reign! Ad multos Annos!