Tuesday, 6 September 2011
The fact of JPs I and II doing without Coronations, and settling merely for Inaugurations felt a bit wet. It was a though a dimension of the Pontificate had been sacrificed merely to give a good impression; as though the "temporal rule" bit was being somehow downplayed, merely to act in harmony with the spirit of the age.
Benedict XVI's decision to remove the tiara from his arms and to replace them "merely" with a mitre is actually a much richer and more symbolic gesture, and one which situates the Church in the new Millennium. The Church needed to develop its independence through the Papal States in the Middle Ages so that the Papacy and the Church did not become prisoner or vassal of the Emperor or some lesser monarch. But the independence became an end in itself, and the revenues accruing to the States became an end in themselves to a succession of Popes. Their capture by Garibaldi in 1870, and the "imprisonment" of the Pope until the time of the Lateran Treaty in 1929 seemed like a disaster, but was in fact the start of an era of liberation. The Vatican City State might look odd, but showed how the Papacy could maintain its independence during the Second World War. In more recent years, it has ceded many of the trappings of statehood - such as a completely independent police force - because its independence is guaranteed.
Thus the logic of the abolition of the tiara: the Pope doesn't need the trappings of authority any more. He is the Bishop of Rome, and his curia can work independently of Italian civil authority, as long as it behaves honestly.
And this leads me on to the title of Patriarch of the West. I must admit to having been mystified when the Pope stopped using the title, but in the light of his renunciation of the tiara, things become clearer. The Petrine Ministry is exercised by the Bishop of Rome, and any title which appears to outrank, rather than complement, the title of Bishop of Rome has to go. His Primacy goes with his See and nothing else. To use the title of Patriarch might in some way detract from or dilute the fact that as Bishop of Rome, he has all the title and authority he needs.
This is not to detract from the title of Patriarch as used in the East - I think that in taking this decision the Pope's mind, for once, was not on the East. It was more on liberating Catholics from thinking of the Papacy in terms of temporal authority so they could concentrate on what the Petrine Ministry has to offer the twenty-first century.
Posted by Ttony