God Who is Near

April 19 was the fifth anniversary of the day when the Cardinals, united in Conclave, chose Joseph Ratzinger as the successor of the apostle Peter. It is easy to recall the emotions of those days. After the death of John Paul II, on April 2, 2005, during the twenty-seventh year of his Pontificate, Rome experienced a huge influx of people from all over the world. We all bear indelibly engraved on our memory the interminable lines of people seeking to spend a few moments close to the mortal remains of the beloved Pope, or the funeral Mass celebrated by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as well as the beginning of the Conclave, a few hours after the end of the Mass “Pro eligendo Romano Pontifice.

On April 24, in the homily at the solemn beginning of his Petrine ministry, the new Pope opened his heart to the world, expressing his joy at having seen in recent days so much filial affection, both human and supernatural, for John Paul II: “it has become wonderfully evident to us that the Church is alive. And the Church is young.”[1]

On the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI's pontificate, the signs of affection and gratitude towards the Roman Pontiff are abundant. In this issue of Romana we have reproduced, for example, a letter signed by young people from more than 30 countries who were in Rome during Holy Week. After recalling the moments of special significance that have taken place since he became Pope, the young people wrote: “Thank you, Holy Father, for these five years of your Pontificate, for your example of service, and for your example in the search for truth.” And they added: “Thank you, Your Holiness, for the courage with which you invite all the faithful in the Church to follow Christ with a total dedication, without letting themselves be intimidated by the false appearances of prevailing opinions.”

In this issue we reproduce an article by the Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría, in which he highlights Benedict XVI's efforts to make known “God who is near to us,” who has made himself one with us and who, in his goodness, has wanted to remain as food for us in the Eucharist.

The Prelate writes that His Holiness, from the beginning of his ministry, has considered it his mission to communicate to others the joy that comes from being close to God; and to stir up in the world a new commitment in response to God's love, aware that “there is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ,” and “to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him.”[2]

The article by Bishop Echevarría recalls the love that St. Josemaría had for the Roman Pontiff and that he showed openly on so many occasions. “For me,” the Founder of Opus Dei once said, “in the hierarchy of love, the Pope comes right after the Most Holy Trinity and our Mother the Blessed Virgin.”[3] And on another page of his writings, he raised his soul in gratitude to God for this gift: “Thank you, my God, for placing in my heart such love for the Pope.”[4]

[1] Benedict XVI, Homily, June 24, 2005.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Conversations, no. 46.

[4] The Way, no. 573.

Romana, n. 50, January-June 2010, p. 8-9.

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