My husband Joseph and I have just been in shock this morning about the news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning.
How interesting, too, that this news breaks on the World Day of the Sick and Our Lady of Lourdes.
“After having repeatedly examined my 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 the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”
My husband, with his interest and knowledge of all things Catholic, starting sharing about the last pope to resign. New Advent has the Catholic Encyclopedia about the last pope to resign, Celestine V. It’s not unprecedented, but it is really surprising.
We’ve had an interesting discussion here. On the one hand, as Joseph mentioned, Pope Paul VI spoke about how it was important for people to see the Holy Father die in office.
Consider how Pope John Paul II’s decline and death showed a generation the beauty and nobility of that. On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI resigning shows that stepping down is also a viable option, and strength and holiness can be shown through that.
This may not seem like the best way to say this, but there are many ways to grow old. Blessed Pope John Paul II showed us one very public way, and perhaps Benedict XVI is showing us another, quieter way, more suited to his quiet personality.
Here’s a brief article from Vatican Radio (and update, here is Rocco Palma’s first, thorough analysis) detailing some of the specifics: Benedict XVI will not participate in the conclave to elect the new pope (and he is also too old to vote in any case). He will move to Castel Gandolfo after his resignation becomes effective, and he will live in private apartments at the Vatican. Joseph and I both thought he might have moved back to Germany to live out his final days there. We just watched Cardinal Dolan interviewed on the Today Show, and he appears just as surprised as everyone.
Consider, too, that the Holy Father won’t be like a former president. The media won’t get to interview him and ask how “the new guy” is doing. He will be living a completely private life.
Can we join in prayer as we approach Lent? I will be considering how prayer for Benedict XVI, as well as the new pope, will be part of my Lent.
Any special ideas you have to make this a fruitful Lent in prayer for the Holy Father and his successor?