Saturday, September 21, 2013

The term 'Holy' in the expression 'Holy Father'

Louder than words!

Yes, I am referring on my past article written as one and my only commentary to a great theologian, philosopher and historian – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose gentle moves can crush any mightier boulder that cross its path.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is the exact person that we are looking for for this apologetic post.

The Attribution ‘HOLY’ in the expression ‘Holy Father’

Question:  "Nagtataka lang ho ako sa katoliko,nong buhay pa si pope john paul ang tawag nila "santo papa", bakit nong namatay na kailangan pang pagbotohan para maging ganap na "santo"? Ibig bang sabihin nong buyay pa siya "santo santohan lang pala siya"? Nagtatanong lang ho" [I’m just wondering, why the Catholic, while Pope John Paul is still alive, they call him ‘Holy Father’, then when he died there’s a need for voting process to attest that he is ‘Holy’(Saint)? Does it mean when he still alive, his ‘holiness’ is only a superficial? Just asking]

The precise answer can be found from the presentation in an ecumenical gathering of Catholics and Orthodox made by Archbishop Jean-Claude Perisset at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Iasi, East Romania:

The attribution "holy," in the expression "Holy Father," does not have a primarily moral content to it, in the sense of identifying the Pope with a saint canonically recognized as such. For Popes, too, the process of canonization is required, in order to propose them as "saints" for the veneration of the faithful.

The qualifier "holy" underlines the spiritual dimension of this fatherhood exercised in the name of God; and we have already said that it does not imply a moral judgment on the person of the Pope. The expression "Holy Father" was born in the time of the controversy over lay investiture, and it seemed normal that in its becoming common usage in the acts of the chancery, the Roman Curia had then wished to underscore the spiritual and supernatural level of the mission of the Pope by adding the adjective "holy" — to defend implicitly the superiority of papal power over imperial power.

Without mistake, this ecclesiastical title “Holy Father” meant not because he (the Pope) is holy but because the things of Christ which he administers are holy.1

This is the exact emphasis given by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he brought back the old forgotten aesthetic papal attire; from a simple white cassock, symbolizing purity and holiness which has 33 protruding buttons representing each year of Christ’s life (an ancient style started with Pope Pius V)2 to the resurrection of elegant red Papal Mozzetta – each has infuse with liturgical and historical language to be share with. He communicates through clothing.

The message is very clear, it is not for a sumptuous or conspicuous expenditure was by no means an indication of any lack of humility - it is an emphasis on the importance of his office rather than of the man currently occupying it.

The Investiture Controversy

What is Investiture Controversy? I will not go to a lengthy historical discussion here, the most important thing is to cite some major events happened on this period. Investiture (to appoint) Controversy is a historical event when the Catholic Church struggle against State Control – it is the struggle between the Pope and the Emperor (King).

Kings (Ottonian Dynasty who govern the entire Roman Empire) had thought it is their right, granted by God, to appoint (investiture) a Pope, as well as the authority to name and depose Church Officials, such as Bishops and Abbotts. at one time, a king from Ottonian Dynasty changed the official empire name ‘Roman Empire’ to ‘Holy Roman Empire’ wherein he adds the word ‘HOLY’ to show his ambition to dominate Italy and the Papacy.3 The Church’s ecclesiastical leader (headed by the Pope) started to struggle to move the church back to its roots, to be freed from the grip of imperial secular power – restoring the autonomy of the church under the jurisdiction of the Pope without any secular control and manipulation from the Kings.

One major event to be noted was when King Henry IV believes that the Pope were not independent, rather the election of Pope, Bishops, Abbots and all Church Officials were under his sole power, a certain Pope named Gregory VII (the most vocal and strident in this controversy and one of the great reforming popes, emphasizing the rule on celibacy against those clerics who practice concubinage) challenged the authority of King Henry IV over the right to control of appointments (investiture) in Church affairs; telling that the Pope alone could appoint or depose Churchmen or move them from diocese to diocese. King Henry IV responded by issuing a letter withdrawing his support to Pope Gregory VII: “Henry, King not through usurpation but through the holy ordination of God, to Hildebrand, at present not pope but false monk”. He further states that: “I, Henry, king by the grace of God, with all of my Bishops, say to you, come down, come down, and be damned throughout the ages.” In another situation, King Henry IV installed his personal chaplain as Bishop of Milan wherein, he knew at hand that the Holy See (the Pope) had already appointed someone for that position. In response to all these, the Pope with all his might excommunicates Henry IV!

These events resulted in putting Pope Gregory VII in exile (Avignon France). In Rome Italy, King Henry IV appointed an immoral man named Clement III as a Pope. When Pope Gregory VII died, the Cardinals in Avignon France called a Papal election to elect the next Pope as successor of Peter, and here Pope Victor III was elected. Clement III in Rome continues his reign in opposition to four successive popes which were elected in legitimate election of cardinals as successor to the unbroken line of St. Peter seat: Gregory VII, Victor III, Urban II, and Paschal II – soon the Church declared Clement III as Antipope.

The Church took centuries of struggle, a show of refusal to bow down to any secular imperial power.

In the end, this historical event – the triumph of the Catholic Church against the rule, control and manipulation of secular government is what Pope Benedict XVI wants to emphasize when he ‘Dressed’ the ‘Papal Office’ with beauty, dignity and greatness – like King Solomon of the past; to show the Splendor of the Church attributes to her Divine Founder – who still relevant and has a place in public square… now that there is a new wave of threat to her coming from the power of secularism.    

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