“Future Veneration” of Pope Benedict XVI?

Secretary Clarifies Pope’s Organ Donor Status

ROME, FEB. 7, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s private secretary has clarified rumors about the Pope’s organ donor card, saying that after election to the See of Peter, it automatically became invalid.

Monsignor Georg Gänswein made this clarification in a Feb. 5 letter to a German doctor who was using the Pope as an example in order to promote organ donation.

“It is correct that the Pope has got an organ donor card,” Monsignor Gänswein wrote. “But contrary to some claims made in public, the organ donor card from the 1970s became invalid ipso facto when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected leader of the Catholic Church.”

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, explained to La Repubblica that the Pope’s body belongs to the whole Church, and its preservation is understandable in view of possible future veneration.

Saint Benedict the XVIth perhaps? Well, even if not, I for one will be queuing up to pray at his tomb one day. Just as a thought experiment though, imagine being the recipient of the papal heart… Or, as an even more bizarre thought experiment, imagine if you received a heart transplant and then the person who donated it was elevated to SAINTHOOD! Too weird.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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14 Responses to “Future Veneration” of Pope Benedict XVI?

  1. Shades of ‘Jesus of Montreal’.
    A beautiful – even if terribly flawed – film.

  2. Tony says:

    Too weird.

    That just about covers it, David.

    The business of praying to or venerating bodies or parts thereof is a macbre form of idolotry. Ancient tribes who preserve their loved ones after death and engage in a form of ancestor worship are seen by the church as wrong, but it’s OK if you think that person is a saint. Then ‘any bit will do!’.

    • catherine says:

      This is just silly, if he wants to donate his organs ( a really good idea) there would be plenty of his remains left over. I can’t understand people wanting to venerate a corpse of a pope. Frankly, I can’t even get enthused about going to cemetaries to visit graves of people I know.

      • Schütz says:

        Well, you see, Catherine, there’s the difference between you and me. There is a great Barossa Valley pastime called “visiting the cemetaries”, a practice I and my family indulged in big time when we went to visit the departed rellies last year (see here: http://scecclesia.com/?p=4112). I’ve been to the tombs of the popes in St Peter’s, and it is a moving experience. There is a tangible connection with the past there. I think this is something deep in the Christian understanding of the body (which we get from the Jews of course) – the body counts.

    • Schütz says:

      I think you have it wrong too, Tony. In fact, both your response and Catherine’s disturbs me a little. “Paying one’s respects” by visiting their grave (the equivalent in a non-religious sense of venerating bodily relics) is not “macabre” or “idolatry”. It is honouring them, and honouring God who created the body. It is also an expression of faith in the Resurrection of the Body – without which faith such veneration would make no sense at all. You see, we believe that the physical body is integrally one with the soul of the human person. We believe that these departed saints (I use the term in the broadest meaning) are in fact still alive and that the bodies we venerate are in fact destined for heaven.

      It might look a bit like ancestor worship. And from my meagre study of the Church’s interaction with that cultic practice, I believe there are points of contact that have not been entirely dismissed as “idolatry”. Of course, we must not forget the simple and crucial distinction between latria and dulia.

      • Tony says:

        The feeling of disturbance is mutual, David.

        If saying that the Pope’s body now belongs to the ‘whole church’ is not a form of idolotry, then the word has no meaning.

        Alternatively, if the Pope’s organs are not to be available for donation should there be a need, neither should ours.

        Then, albiet in jest (I think), you speculate about having the organ of a (future) saint as if, by it’s nature, that organ was somehow special.

        There is a thin line between that sense of a tangible link to the past and a keeping alive the memory of those we love, which I have no problem with at all, and idolotry.

        Being an organ donor is, of course, totally voluntary and the Pope, like everyone else, can choose what he wants, but to change his mind because he is now Pope is, to use your expression, weird and to think so has nothing to do with church teaching on bodily resurrection.

        • catherine says:

          Tony, my impression, from reading the article, was that it was not the pope”s decision to bail on the organ donation, but a CHurch thing.

          • catherine says:

            Anyway he is pretty old so maybe his organs are just about past their use by date anyway

            • Tony says:

              Both points are well made, Catherine, but they don’t lessen my concern about when do we cross the line into idolotry.

              Another Papal example is that of PJPII and his sometimes ‘pop star’ popularity. At what point do you say this is going too far?

              I don’t have an easy answer, but I just have a sense that the motive of no longer being an organ donor because your body now ‘belongs to the whole church’, is wierd and is anything but projecting an image of a humble servant of servants.

            • catherine says:

              Tony, Pope Benny strikes me as a pretty humble, quiet fellow. If one can believe what one reads, he just wanted to retire and had no interest in being the pope.

      • catherine says:

        David, forgive me if my post was offensive. I think visiting graves is not helpful to me, but I realise that some people find it beneficial and place great store on being able to go the graves of loved ones. From my perspective, not visiting cemetaries is an expression of faith. I know that the person is dead and is in heaven or doing time in purgatory, and that the most important part of them, their soul, has departed. People are raised in different ways and in my family we were told not to go to cemetaries but to go to mass and pray for the person instead as that would be the best way to help/remember them.

        When I went to Europe I saw some very interesting/attractive cemetaries and have even been known to check out the odd cemetary in Australia, but as a tourist not a mourner.

        If I wanted to feel close to someone who had died I would either go to mass where they went to mass or go somewhere where we had had good times together.

        ps I can’t help but feel it is very weird that people venerate SAint Xs finger, toe etc

        • Schütz says:

          Well, for a start I don’t mourn when I visit a cemetery – it really is a celebration. When we visited Great, great, great, great Grandfather’s grave on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his birth, we sang “happy birthday” to him!

          The other thing is that I do not agree that the Catholic faith teaches that the soul is “the most impotent part” of a person. God made both our bodies and our souls and has predestined both for eternity. Our prayers aid the purification of the souls – but this is precisely so as to prepare them for the resurrection! That’s why the church offers a plenary indulgence for the departed to those who visit cemeteries during the week after All Souls.

        • catherine says:

          Tony, I agree with you that JPII had “pop star ” popularity, but was that his fault? Previous popes lived in an age where the media was not as developed as it is now, so they did not get as much publicity.

          JPII travelled to many countries, ie he did many ” tours”, but travel has become easier in recent decades.
          If there are inappropriate papal ” groupies” I do not see how the pope can be blamed for this, anymore than pop stars can be held responsible for crazy fans selling eveyrthing they own and following the pop star all over the world.

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