I am sure most readers know this by now, but Pope Benedict has announced he will resign on February 28.
This is very unusual. The last time a pope resigned was Pope Gregory XVI in 1415. The vast majority of popes serve until their death. Church law was revised in 1983 to make it more clear how a papal resignation could be handled. In modern times, as life-extending medicine has improved, it has become more clear that it was only a matter of time before a Pope reached a mental and physical state that would necessitate their resignation some time before death.
VATICAN CITY — Citing advanced years and infirmity, but showing characteristic tough-mindedness and unpredictability, Pope Benedict XVI shocked Roman Catholics on Monday by saying that he would resign on Feb. 28, becoming the first pope to do so in six centuries.
Speaking in Latin to a small gathering of cardinals at the Vatican on Monday morning, Benedict said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of leading the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.
The statement, soon translated into seven languages, ricocheted around the globe.
A shy, tough-minded theologian who seemed to relish writing books more than greeting stadium crowds, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II. An often divisive figure, he spent much of his papacy in the shadow of his beloved predecessor.
I do question his reasons for resigning. While he is not a young man, the 85 year old pope has not had any very serious health problems and popes have served in much more frail and elderly states.
It’s possible that the resignation may be due to the division and the criticism that has followed this pope. Seeing how this pope has dealt with the church sex abuse scandal and various social issues has made me long for John Paul II41
who, by comparison, seemed to be very liberal and reasonable. Granted, at the time, he didn’t seem it, but compared to the current pope, even John Paul II looks good.
I should add that I am from a Catholic family. For those who are not, it’s hard to even begin to explain what a big deal this is to the world’s Catholics. To members of the Catholic Church, the pope is beloved, almost as a family member, and also a superstar. Catholics will no-doubt, be glued to their televisions as the Vatican begins its elections for a new pope. When one is chosen, it will be a big event across the world.
For those who are not Catholic or not religious at all, the importance of the pope should not be dismissed. He is the official head of the Vatican state and the leader of the single largest centrally-organized religion on earth. The pope’s word is so revered that it can alter the habits and actions of Catholics from the United States to Europe to Africa and India. It is especially potent in the most Catholic regions of the world, such as Poland, Ireland and Latin America. The Catholic Church distributes billions of dollars to affiliated organizations and the size of the Catholic voting block makes it a power player in the politics of many countries.
While I am sure that I will not agree with the next pope on all issues, I very much hope someone can be elected who will do a better job than Benedict XVI at bringing the Catholic Church into the 21st century and helping to end some of the most offensive practices, especially coming down hard on those who protect abusive priests.
I hope that other secularists and non-religious individuals will withhold their judgement on the next pope, at least until we see what kind of policy stands he takes. Clearly anyone who rejects religion is not likely to find any pope very agreeable, but we can at least hope to find one who will help bring things forward.
This entry was posted on Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 4:07 pm and is filed under Culture, religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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