.- Reflecting on the five-year pontificate of Benedict XVI, the Cardinal Francis George wrote in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on Wednesday that joy and love are at the foundation of his teachings and ministry. The American cardinal also praised the Pope's efforts to combat clerical sexual abuse and his efforts to reach out to victims.
April 19 marked the fifth year since the election of Pope Benedict XVI as the Successor of Peter.
Cardinal George referenced the words of then-Cardinal Ratzinger in an interview given to Peter Seewald, for the book "God and the World," during which he said, "If we look at Christ, he is all sympathy and this makes him precious to us. Being sympathetic, being vulnerable, is part of being Christian. One must learn to accept injuries, to live with wounds and in the end to find therein a deeper healing."
All of the Pope's audiences, addresses and encyclicals, have joy and love at the foundation of his teachings, observed the cardinal, who said that he calls us to bring together "all aspects of human life in the embrace of divine love."
These teachings can be found in the way the Pope has lived his pontificate thus far, he continued. "Recognized at the moment of his election as an established scholar, prolific writer and theologian of great shrewdness, in these five years Benedict XVI has demonstrated to the world (that he has) a sensitive pastoral heart ..."
He has been able to reach the people, young and old, during his 14 apostolic journeys abroad and 17 trips within Italy, Cardinal George stated, noting his visits also with Muslims, Jews, American presidents and victims of sexual abuse.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago also commented on Pope Benedict's efforts to reach out to those who have been abused by priests, saying that the Pope has offered himself in the "model of the compassion of Christ" and that victims "have perceived his sorrow for their suffering."
The cardinal went on to underline that the Pope has long studied the problem of abuse and has "made decisive steps to confront both the bureaucratic slowness that aggravated the injuries and the culture of permissiveness that allowed these crimes to take place."
He praised Benedict XVI for facing the challenge of encouraging "many thousands of priests who feel betrayed by the sins of their brothers" and addressing "millions of Catholics disgusted by the fact that such crimes take place in the Church they love."
Citing other examples of the Pope's evangelization in the modern world, he pointed the Holy Father's calls for the unity of Christians and his message that love is stronger than death or desperation.
In all his efforts as the Successor of St. Peter, the cardinals support their leader, Cardinal George added.Those who elected him,"count on his strength, give thanks to God for his teaching and rejoice because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, corrects our weaknesses, heals the Church and unites it to its ever compassionate Lord," he added.
Celebrations for the Pope's five years and his recent birthday will be capped off with a concert this Thursday evening, organized by the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. An Italian youth orchestra will play a series of three symphonies at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican for the occassion.