March 12 testifies to the unshakable historical continuity of Christianity.
Back in 2000, Pope John Paul II made history on March 12. The Holy Father celebrated the “Day of Forgiveness” in which he asked for pardon on behalf of Catholics for their sins throughout history. I remember watching this Jubilee Year celebration and being visibly moved by the great gesture of humility. It made me realize that the Catholic Church is made of members who are sinners, and this does not wake away from her holiness, but somehow enhances it. The admission of faults paradoxically brought home the fact that the Church is Holy, a Divine Institution because it acknowledges Truth. I was struck by the thought that no other religion was ever known to have made such a sweeping apology on behalf of its members.
Fast forward to 2013. Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI has stepped down from the Office of St. Peter. The Church goes on as it has for 2000 years and another Pope will be chosen. A Conclave has been convened for Cardinals to prayerfully elect a pope from among their number. Today is day one of the Conclave—1 vote has taken place and ended with black smoke indicating that a pope hasn’t been elected yet. Everybody’s keeping an eye on the chimney at the Sistine Chapel hoping for puffs of white smoke. The next pope will be number 267… I wonder who it will be. No matter who the next pope will be, one thing is certain: the Catholic Church goes on— because it is a Divine Institution. It has to be, because of 2 reasons: 1. If sinful Catholics have not been able to destroy the Church by now, nobody can. 2. There has been an unbroken succession of popes since the 1st century, (and providentially, one of those popes was St. Gregory Great who is believed to have died on March 12 in the 7th century).