The Benedict XVI generation | Jacob Phillips | The Critic Magazine

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How his “dynamic fidelity” responded to the needs of a changing world…

Shortly after the election of Pope Francis in 2013, I was talking with someone still deeply upset by Pope Benedict’s resignation. Her reason for being so upset, she said, was that his papacy had been so short — a mere eight years compared to John Paul II’s remarkable twenty-six. She worried Benedict would not have a “generation” in the way his predecessor did, presumably meaning an entire wave of people born into the faith and schooled in the sacramental life under the aegis of one and the same Pope. A friend of mine immediately interjected at this moment and sharply corrected her: “Benedict XVI does have a generation,” he said. 

Usually to speak of a generation one would be thinking in segments of roughly twenty-one years. Someone born and baptised around the time of Benedict’s enthronement in 2005 is unlikely even to have been confirmed by 2013, and at eight years old can hardly be expected to have a personality too deeply formed by a particular pontificate. My friend didn’t mean this — he wasn’t talking about people eight years old and younger in 2013 — he was talking about people like himself (and like me) who did then (and do now) feel they are deeply informed by the life and writings of Benedict XVI. We both converted to the faith in the middle of that eight year pontificate. 

One of Benedict XVI’s prime concerns was the re-evangelisation of formerly Catholic countries. Two Englishmen converts could thus feel particularly at home with the then Holy Father. Benedict XVI was also a prophet for the secular age, and his work is premised perhaps more than any other theologian on the reality that the Church is being thrust into a position like that of its earliest years in the pagan Roman Empire. Lest we forget, the Church of the Apostles was once composed exclusively of converts. There is a particular relationship between Benedict’s pontificate and the phenomenon of post-secular conversion. The Benedict XVI generation are those who converted in the midst of modernity’s travails.

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The Benedict XVI generation | Jacob Phillips | The Critic Magazine

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