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The Seventh Anniversary of Pope Benedict's Election

The Most Important Accomplishments of the First Seven Years

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Pope Benedict XVI at the Announcement of His Election (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Newly elected Pope Benedict XVI appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on April 19, 2005, in Vatican City. German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the 265th Pope.

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

For Christians, the number 7 represents perfection, and while even the most ardent admirer of Pope Benedict XVI (such as myself) would not call his pontificate perfect, seven years has certainly been long enough to prove the naysayers wrong. Despite the fact that the Holy Father was 78 when he was elected, his reign has not been, as many predicted, a "transitional" pontificate. Plenty of Popes of the Catholic Church have not reached the seven-year mark, including eight of the previous popes Benedict.

Of course, longevity, in and of itself, means nothing. It's what Pope Benedict has accomplished over the last seven years that is most important: three encyclicals; over a thousand homilies and addresses; three major books; over 20 trips abroad; the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass as one of the two forms of the Roman Rite; the revised English translation of the Novus Ordo; the establishment of procedures to bring Anglicans back into the Catholic Church; overtures to the Orthodox Churches; the lifting of the excommunications on the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X and the patient pursuit of full unity between the SSPX and Rome.

And these are only the most obvious accomplishments. There are others, such as Benedict's clarification of certain questions of ecclesiology, that I think future Church historians will regard as among the most important developments of his pontificate, even though most Catholics today are unaware of them.

Here in America, the Holy Father has already put his mark on the Church, not simply through his 2008 apostolic visit to the United States, but in his episcopal appointments, which (in my opinion) have been more solidly orthodox than those of Pope John Paul II. Still, there is much work to be done, including over 250 episcopal appointments worldwide that need to be made, and which will inevitably shape the Catholic Church for decades to come.

On his 85th birthday, Pope Benedict delivered a homily that some have seen as an acknowledgment that his time is running short. They have pointed in particular to these words:

I am in the final stage of my life journey and I do not know what awaits me. However, I do know that the light of God exists, that He rose again, that His light is stronger than all darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than all the evil in this world. This helps me to continue with confidence. This helps us to continue, and I would like to thank everyone who, through their faith, continually makes me aware of God's "yes."

While those words are certainly an acknowledgment of the Holy Father's mortality, I do not see them as an indication that Pope Benedict sees his end coming soon. Indeed, when I contrast them with his fervent request of the faithful at the time of his election—"Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves"—they seem rather optimistic, as do his words of thanks to all the faithful who have shown their support for the Holy Father over his pontificate:

I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes you have been sending me for the seventh anniversary of my election. I ask you to support me always with your prayers so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I may continue my service to Christ and the Church.

With gratitude for his seven years as the shepherd of our souls and the 264th successor of Peter, let us pray that God may grant Pope Benedict XVI many more years of peace, health, and happiness, as he faithfully preaches the Word of His Truth!

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