June 29, 2012, is the 61st anniversary of the ordination of Joseph Ratzinger to the priesthood. From bishop to cardinal to pope, Benedict XVI has had a long and productive life as a priest, and, God willing, he might live to see the 65th and even 70th anniversary of his ordination.
The Holy Father, however, has not treated his time as pontiff as if it were unlimited. Despite being a man who has always acted with great deliberation, Benedict has, from the moment of his elevation to the papacy, has exhibited a sense of urgency in certain areas, chief among them his attempts at furthering Christian unity.
June 29 is also the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, one of the ten Holy Days of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (though it is not celebrated as such in the dioceses of the United States). Since 1965, when Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI lifted the mutual excommunications of East and West, the feast has been celebrated in Rome as a symbol of Christian unity, with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch sending a delegate to Rome for the celebration. (In 2008, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I made the trip himself.)
I have recently begun to wonder whether Pope Benedict's commitment to Christian unity has something to do with the fact that his ordination occurred on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Of course, every pope certainly understands that he has a duty to try to ensure that the Body of Christ is not divided. But I cannot think of another pope who has worked as hard as Pope Benedict XVI to heal the divisions in the Church—with the Orthodox, with Anglicans, with the various traditionalist communities that had removed themselves from union with Rome.
If the rumors are correct, reunion with the most prominent of those traditionalist communities—the Society of Saint Pius X—may finally be in sight, perhaps as soon as the middle of next month. With that in mind, I can think of no better way to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the Holy Father's ordination than to attend Mass on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul and to pray for the unity of the Church.
May God grant Pope Benedict XVI long life, health, and happiness, as he faithfully preaches the Word of His Truth, and may the Holy Father live to see his desire for Christian unity take hold in the hearts of all the Christian faithful.
- The 60th Anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's Ordination
- The Sacrament of Holy Orders
- The Unity of the Church: Thoughts From Pope Benedict on His 85th Birthday
- A Glorious Sight in the Apostolic See
- Pope Benedict to Anglicans: Come Home to Rome
- Is the Reunion of the SSPX Finally in Sight?
- Show Your Support for Pope Benedict XVI