Cardinal Cottier on 2 Key Events of 2005

Spiritual Legacy and Papal Continuity

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ROME, JAN. 11, 2006 ( Cardinal Georges Cottier is quick to sum up 2005 as «a great spiritual experience.»

The Swiss-born cardinal, who in December ended a 16-year stint as theologian to the Pontifical Household, shared with the Italian newspaper Avvenire the moments of 2005 that made the greatest impression on him.

«Two events impressed me above all,» said the 83-year-old Dominican.

«The first was that Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Year of the Eucharist, introducing in this way a framework of great spiritual intensity for the Church, and […] in this framework he lived his own illness and death,» the cardinal said. «He left us a great spiritual legacy. And the people — all saw it — perceived it.»

The other event that impressed the cardinal was the «peaceful manner in which the succession occurred, the election of Benedict XVI.»

«After more than 26 years of pontificate it would even have been normal for problems or difficulties to arise,» Cardinal Cottier said. «History itself tells us that something like this could have happened, in a completely natural and comprehensible way. However, none of this occurred.»

Pre-conclave calm

Because of his age, Cardinal Cottier was not among the cardinal electors. But he did take part in the cardinals’ general congregations — which bring together the whole of the College of Cardinals — that preceded the conclave. In these meetings he did not perceive any anguish or tension.

«It is said always that we must see the signs of the times, but not the fact that it is often difficult to recognize them at the moment they appear,» the cardinal said. «But these two events, which I have just recalled, were truly signs of the times, capable of speaking to us, the Church, but also to the whole world.»

And the way that the events spoke to the world «was seen in the great respect for the figure of Pope Wojtyla, in the number — never before seen — of personalities who came for the funeral, in the way in which the media followed those days,» the cardinal continued.

According to Cardinal Cottier, «The world is one great disorder, but John Paul II was an oak, a firm point of reference,» and just as «a certain culture does not like the concept of ‘paternity,’ despite the fact that the need of ‘paternity’ is observed, … Pope Wojtyla in fact filled this need.»

«He was a defender of peace and life because he loved life and, if it can be said this way, almost obliged all those who have a different vision to question themselves, to reflect,» the cardinal said. «He made one reflect, and he did so by appearing defenseless, as an example of evangelical poverty.»


The election of Benedict XVI was «a sign of continuity,» which Cardinal Cottier described as «something very beautiful,» «also because of the testimony the Church gave of herself.»

They are, «of course two different personalities — that of Pope Wojtyla and of Benedict XVI — but with an obvious, very profound, closeness,» he said.

«Above all there are two traces that unite both Popes: the fact of being two souls of interior life and [their] great love for the Church,» the cardinal said.

He also cited something that he says «truly places them in close continuity: their very great sense of responsibility. They make a decision and carry it out. If they must say something, they say it without ambiguities.»

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