Reporting from Rome a few days after white smoke issued forth from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announcing the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the always astute John L. Allen Jr. wrote: The election of Joseph Ratzinger April 19 was a vote for continuity with the papacy of John Paul II, but also a choice for a man who will translate the guiding lines of the Wojtyla pontificate into institutional reality. Allen, Vatican correspondent for the otherwise ultra-liberal National Catholic Reporter, went on to say, Pope Benedict XVI is a man with a keen vision of the realities facing the Catholic church, especially in the West, along with the courage to proclaim remedies that fly in the face of much conventional wisdom and political correctness.
In the six years that have elapsed, two major Benedictine milestones have confirmed Allens observations: Summorum Pontificum, Benedicts 2007 motu proprio freeing the Tridentine Latin Mass, and Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Popes 2009 apostolic constitution establishing Anglican ordinariates. While Pope Benedict deserves a vast amount of credit for having the courage to cut against the grain, and for showing the innovativeness necessary to pull off these feats, it must be acknowledged that they were preceded and made possible by initiatives originally fostered by John Paul II.
In the case of both the Latin Mass and the ordinariates, Benedict was responding to a growing need in the Church; in both cases, his response was to revolutionize a policy put in place by his predecessor.
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