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ELECTING A POPE
The most helpful book to turn to on who the successor to Pope Benedict XVI should be is the book of the gospels, where the apostle Peter is clearly given a role which underlies the Petrine ministry. In St. Luke’s gospel. ( Lk. 5.4-11) Peter is asked to pay out the nets The two most significant aspects of this exchange are that firstly, the total initiative is with Jesus – it is he who, unbidden approaches Peter, who orders the casting of nets and who invites Peter to follow him – and secondly, the protest of Peter, in which he insists that this is not something for which he is prepared. It is the Lord who calls and it is the Lord who will empower Peter to follow. Choosing is the Lord’s work, and is not dependent on the perceived worth of the one called.
In St. John’s gospel (Jn. 28.15-17) Jesus said to Simon Peter ‘do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Do you love me? He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ then he asked him a third time and Peter said ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep’
Three times Peter is questioned, three times he responds. This too is a scene that is commissioning – Peter is entrusted with the care of the sheep. It is clear that Jesus speaks deliberately of “my sheep” and “my lambs”. Peter is entrusted with the Lord’s flock, and that is essential to any understanding of his role. The other essential element in this exchange is that there is a sole criterion required of Peter for ministry by Jesus: “Do you love me?” No doubt there will be many offering all sorts of criteria in examining candidates for the office of bishop of Rome, but the Lord, who does the calling, has only one.