.- During the final meditation of the spiritual exercises for Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia, Cardinal Francis Arinze underscored the need for priests and bishops to retire when a long illness keeps them from their ministry. They should use the time they have left to focus on preparing themselves for a holy death, he counseled.
During his reflection, the Nigerian cardinal asked, “Should not the time come in which he who has served God and the Church during many years and now is not well ask to be replaced in his important responsibilities in order to allow one who has better health to take the helm? Is this not perhaps a way to allow one who is sick to better prepare himself for the encounter with the Lord?”
“Undoubtedly those close to the diocesan bishop or to the pastor, when they are sick, will hesitate to speak the word resign in order not to appear ungrateful, but should not the sick person himself face the question? In this way, everything would be much simpler, keeping in mind that the Code of Canon Law asks and admonishes us to always consider that the salvation of souls should be the supreme law of the Church.”
For this reason, priests and bishops should reflect beforehand on how they should respond to a long illness, the cardinal continued. “What would be the best thing to do for the good of the parish and the diocese?” he asked.
Cardinal Arinze encouraged his listeners to prepare for death and to reflect on how it should be confronted.
After recalling the testimony left by John Paul II during his last years in his old age and infirmity, the cardinal underscored the need to remind priests and bishops “of what they already know, that is, of the Christian meaning of death. Such a consideration will help them to live more serenely the final moments of their lives in this valley of tears.”
The death of the Christian “has great value when it is lived in union with Christ. In addition, death teaches in a decisive way the need to leave behind everything, to follow Jesus,” he said.