Almost before the alarm clocks went off, news traveled throughout the U.S. on Monday, Feb. 11 that Pope Benedict XVI was resigning the papacy, an unprecedented event in our lifetime, but not in the history of the Catholic Church, we have since learned.
Then the “alarm bells” started going off! Oh, the Church will certainly experience a schism now with a “Pope-emeritus” breathing down the neck of a new Pope. The new Pope might be a progressive who will undo many of the things that his two predecessors had implemented. With two leaders at the helm, a rift in the Church is inevitable! Such alarmists!
There would be only one leader at the helm — the new Pope! Besides, Pope Benedict XVI would much rather write his books, play his piano and enjoy his cats than be Pope. Why resign if he still wants to meddle in Church affairs? Most likely, any man would rather do anything than be Pope – maybe not before their election; but how many weeks does it take for reality to set in regarding the papacy’s burdens?
Some say the Pope was very courageous in resigning. Personally, I think “humility” is the order of the day. It took a great deal of honest soul searching and humility for Pope Benedict XVI to honestly say he is tired, physically and mentally, to the point that he can no longer be a viable leader of the Church, and for the good of the Church he is resigning the Petrine ministry entrusted to him. For a Pope to recognize that another man will be able to run the church after him, that he has done his part, and it’s time for someone else to take over takes humility and trust in the Holy Spirit.
Our senior Catholics who have experienced many changes in the church often exhibit this same humility and trust in the Holy Spirit. They know the church will continue on doing quite well once they are in heaven. (Then there are others, laypeople and ordained, who want to control every aspect of Church life. Such restless souls are they!)
Naysayers, doomsday people and bad news bearers have yet to hear of the Holy Spirit. Or they don’t believe the Holy Spirit is really guiding the Church in 2013. There are indeed many fractious issues the Church needs to address. We humans are the greatest obstacles to the Holy Spirit. Church history certainly proves that God’s Spirit must be guiding and preserving this very human, divinely-filled yet sinful people the Lord calls into existence generation after generation. Otherwise we would have foundered long ago!
TV pundits are discussing whether a “liberal,” “conservative,” “progressive” or “moderate” pope will be elected to succeed Benedict XVI. I despise such labels. They do nothing but divide us. Labeling people puts them in boxes difficult to escape from. Labels are an injustice against people demonstrating a great lack of respect. We sin against people we label because we can no longer listen to them, or recognize God’s wisdom in them or even love them. Our labels make us afraid of them. Our suspicions of them lead us to avoid them. Such behavior is never a sign of God’s presence among us.
We all have our expectations of what the next Pope will be like. I want the new Pope to be a man dedicated to Jesus and his Gospel, a person who understands ordinary people and their day-to-day struggles, a prayerful person, a collegial Pope who makes decisions by consulting with his brother bishops, a man open to the Spirit’s promptings whom Jesus said would guide us into all truth, who listens to the Spirit speaking through all God’s faithful people and someone who can laugh knowing God is in charge. (Like Pope John XXIII is reportedly to have prayed every night before retiring, “Dear Lord, it’s your world and your church. I’ve done the best I could today. Good Night!”
Names are already being tossed around — they are called “papabile” (those electable to be pope). There’s an old saying in the Vatican, “He who enters the conclave as Pope comes out as a cardinal.” No doubt politicking will take place during the coffee breaks. Is politicking bad? Not necessarily. Politicking actually comes from the Greek word “polis” meaning “people.” So if the cardinals discuss which man will be the “best Pope for the People of God,” then politic away! If they politic to maintain a certain position in the Church, only Almighty God can judge the sincerity of their actions.
Hopefully we have already begun to pray to the Holy Spirit for the cardinals preparing to elect the new Pope, for the man who gets elected Bishop of Rome and thus Pope, and for Pope Benedict XVI. If I were he, I would retire back to my beautiful Bavaria, live with my aging priest-brother, play my piano, write books, pray, have fun with my kitty cats, drink a few beers each day and enjoy some daily Scweinehaxen (grilled pig knuckles)! But he hasn’t telephoned me for my advice yet . . .
ROME — John Allen is offering a profile each day of one of the most frequently touted papabili, or men who could be pope. The old saying in Rome is that he who enters a conclave as pope exits as a cardinal, meaning there’s no guarantee one of these men actually will be chosen. They are, however, the leading names drawing buzz in Rome these days, ensuring they will be in the spotlight as the conclave draws near. The profiles of these men also suggest the issues and the qualities other cardinals see as desirable heading into the election.
One could make a pretty strong argument that nobody’s chances of becoming the next pope benefit more from Benedict XVI’s resignation than those of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines.
Under ordinary circumstances, Tagle’s youth would be seen as an almost insuperable bar to election. At 55 he’s three years younger younger than John Paul II was when he was elected in 1978, so a vote for Tagle would be tantamount to a vote for another long papacy, perhaps as much as 30 years.
Tagle actually looks even younger. The story goes that in the mid-1990s, when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger introduced Tagle to Pope John Paul II as a new member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, Ratzinger jokingly assured the pope that the youthful seeming Filipino had, in fact, received his first Communion.
Especially with a figure many cardinals regard as something of an unknown, a choice for such a young pope would strike them as an awfully big risk.
Now that the precedent has been set that a pope can resign, however, the calculus is different. Tagle could give the church ten or fifteen years, and then step aside – a thought that may well induce some cardinals to look past his age to other qualities.
When they do, they’re likely to find a lot to like about the man touted as the “Great Asian Hope” to take over the Throne of Peter. One Filipino commentator has said that Tagle has “a theologian’s mind, a musician’s soul and a pastor’s heart.”
Earlier this year, before the news of Benedict’s resignation broke, a Filipino business journal named Tagle its “Man of the Year,” describing him as “young, unassuming, and without airs,” a bishop “who more than understands contemporary ideas.”
Born in Manila, Tagle went to seminary in Quezon City and later did his doctoral work at The Catholic University of America in Washington. He also studied in Rome before returning to the Philippines to serve as a pastor and teacher. He was seen as a rising star in the Asian church, explaining his appointment in 1997 to the Vatican’s main doctrinal advisory body. He was named bishop of Imus in 2001.
Theologically and politically, Tagle is considered balanced. He’s taken strong positions against the Philippines’ proposed Reproductive Health Bill, which includes promotion of birth control. Yet his towering social concern is defense of the poor, and he’s also got a strong environmental streak.
Tagle’s doctoral dissertation at Catholic University, written under Fr. Joseph Komonchak, was a favorable treatment of the development of episcopal collegiality at the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, Tagle served for 15 years on the editorial board of the Bologna, Italy-based “History of Vatican II” project founded by Giuseppe Alberigo, criticized by some conservatives for an overly progressive reading of the council.
In the Imus diocese, Tagle was famous for not owning a car and taking the bus to work every day, describing it as a way to combat the isolation that sometimes comes with high office. He was also known for inviting beggars outside the cathedral to come in and eat with him; one woman was quoted describing a time she went looking for her blind, out-of-work, alcoholic husband, suspecting she might track him down in a local bar, only to find that he was lunching with the bishop.
Here’s another typical story. Not long after Tagle arrived in Imus, a small chapel located in a rundown neighborhood was waiting for a priest to say Mass at around 4:00 a.m., for a group mostly made up of day laborers. Eventually a youngish cleric showed up on a cheap bicycle, wearing simple clothes and ready to start the Mass. An astonished member of the congregation realized it was the new bishop, and apologized that they hadn’t prepared a better welcome. Tagle said it was no problem; he got word late the night before the priest was sick, and decided to say the Mass himself.
Tagle is a gifted communicator, making him a sought-after speaker and media personality. He drew rave reviews for his performance at a 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, where observers say he brought an entire stadium to tears. He’s a very 21st-century prelate – he hosts a program on YouTube, and he’s got his own Facebook page.
Tagle has also been a leader in pushing the church in Asia to take an aggressive stance on clerical abuse. He was among the keynoters at an international summit on the abuse crisis held last year at Rome’s Gregorian University, and cosponsored by several Vatican departments.
“Our mission [is] to protect human dignity, especially of the most vulnerable, the children,” he’s said.
The case for Tagle rests on three pillars.
First, he’s an effective communicator and missionary at a time when Catholicism’s highest internal priority is a “New Evangelization.” There’s a sort of E.F. Hutton quality about Tagle; when he talks, people listen.
During last fall’s Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, for instance, Tagle gave a standout speech cited by many participants as one of the most impressive things they heard all month. Tagle argued that in the Asian context, effective evangelization means a church that’s humbler, simpler, and with a greater capacity for silence.
Second, Tagle incarnates the dramatic growth of Catholicism outside the West, putting a face on the dynamic and relatively angst-free form of Catholicism percolating in the southern hemisphere. He would certainly be a symbol of the church in the emerging world, but given his intellectual and personal qualities, hardly a hollow one.
Third, Tagle now has in-the-trenches pastoral experience of administering a large and complex archdiocese in Manila. Though he’s only been on the job since 2011, Tagle generally gets good reviews in terms of his capacity to make the trains run on time.
The drawbacks to Tagle’s candidacy can be expressed in four main points.
First, his age is still a problem. At least some cardinals don’t like the idea of popes resigning, seeing it either as taking some of the luster off the papal office (as one former Vatican official said to me, ‘Now he might as well be the Archbishop of Canterbury!”), or as an indirect admission of failure. In any event, church law states that no one can compel a pope to step down, so it will be entirely up the next pontiff to decide. In that light, the resignation hypothesis may not be enough for many cardinals to get past Tagle’s youth.
Second, Tagle has zero Vatican experience other than attending the occasional synod, and his soft-spoken and humble demeanor may strike some cardinals as ill-suited for the housecleaning many believe the next pope will have to carry out inside the Vatican.
Even if one’s not prepared to embrace conspiracy theories, such as a sensational report in La Repubblica yesterday that a shadowy gay lobby may have been involved in the Vatileaks affair and helped shape Benedict’s decision to resign, most cardinals nevertheless feel that the right people were not always named to the right jobs under Benedict, and there was little accountability for poor performance.
As one longtime Vatican-watcher put it in the wake of the disastrous Holocaust-denying bishop affair in 2009, instead of an anguished papal letter of apology “there should have been a row of heads on pikes all the way down to the Castel Sant’Angelo. That, they would have understood.”
Some may well wonder if Tagle is really the guy to get tough.
Tagle could perhaps take the edge off some of those concerns by dropping hints about whom he might be inclined to choose as his Secretary of State, but that would veer awfully close to campaigning for the job.
Third, some cardinals may perceive Tagle as a bit too much to the left of center (as the “center” is defined, naturally, in the College of Cardinals), especially because of his connection to the Alberigo history of Vatican II.
Fourth and most basically, some cardinals may look at Tagle and see a promising young churchman, but somebody who’s not quite ready for prime time. One can imagine a number of them saying quietly to one another, “He’d make a great pope … someday.”
NAPLES, Fla. – A religious leader who will help choose the next Pope was in Naples tonight. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C. was the keynote speaker at Ave Maria University’s 2nd annual scholarship dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort.
Before he spoke, he shared some insight into the crucial weeks that lie ahead. Cardinal Wuerl is one of 117 cardinals from all corners of the world who will help write the next chapter in the history of the Catholic Church. “Its a moment, however long that moment might be, days, weeks, it’s a moment of silence,” Wuerl said.
He’s focusing on that silence and openness as he takes on the incredible responsibility of selecting the Pope to succeed Benedict XVI when he steps down February 28th. Wuerl said he’s looking for a candidate “who continues that wonderful legacy of Blessed John Paul II and of Benedict XVI, that keeps us focused on the spiritual mission of the church.”
There are 11 American Cardinals heading to Rome. Already, names like Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston have surfaced as potential candidates. When asked if an American Pope is in the realm of possibility, Wuerl said, “It’s probably going to be more wishful thinking on the part of some of us who love some of the American Cardinals. The United States is the world’s only super power and part of the spiritual mission of the Pope is to from time to time, remind all of us how that power is supposed to be used. It’s probably best done by someone who isn’t identified with the United States.”
Wuerl said the Cardinals will spend a few days getting to know one another. But once inside the conclave, there will be silence, prayer and reflection. He said the new Pope faces the challenge of secularism and its growing influence on the world. “The task of the Pope is to remain faithful to the tradition and see that he holds the whole family together,” Wuerl said. “That is going to be his major task.”
The reason behind Thursday’s event is Ave Maria’s scholarship program which awards nearly $10 million to students each year.
Cardinal Wuerl flew back to Washington D.C. after the dinner. He leaves Sunday for Vatican City.
“The pope is the only one who can rule on this topic. So until 19:59 (local time – 1859 GMT) on February 28, any new ruling from Benedict XVI will be valid,” said the Deputy Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library Ambrogio Piazzoni during a news conference on Wednesday.
The rule changes could mean that the Roman Catholic Church might be able to start the papal election process before March 15, which is currently the earliest it can begin.
Under the current papal election rules, the 117 cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church’s conclave must start the process of choosing the new pontiff between 15 and 20 days after the position becomes vacant.
The conclave in Italy’s Rome should wait for the arrival of other cardinals at the Vatican administration to go ahead with the selection process.
However, some cardinals reportedly say that the election process should start sooner than March 15, given the Pope’s resignation date, to reduce the time for the Church to remain without leader.
On February 11, Pope Benedict XVI, the spiritual leader of Christians, said he intends to officially step down from his post at 1900 GMT on February 28 since he is no longer able to carry out his duties.
The Pope’s decision was an unprecedented move in the modern history of the Catholic Church, which has recently come under the spotlight over allegations of covering up sexual abuse of children by priests to protect pedophiles and its own reputation.
The world stood by and waited anxiously for the Mayan predictions of 2012 to be fulfilled and the world to come to a cataclysmic end and yet, we are all still here. We have had many predictions about the Pope to include the misleading notion that he will be THE anti-christ. Now that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning there is even more dooms day talk since he has been predicted to be the last. Of course this prediction is not mentioned at all in the Protestant or Catholic bible.
I find it interesting that so many believers are now fixated on the prophecies of a 12 th Century Irish Archbishop referred to as St. Malachy. This prophecy predicts that this next Pope will be the last Pope and he will be “Peter the Roman”. There seems to be a contender for the Peter post, his name is Cardinal Peter Turkson from Africa. He is well loved but he has a great deal of well loved competition. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Hal Lindsey reported this prediction last week on the The Hal Lindsey Report as if it were a biblical prediction. He made the leap into biblical text by claiming that the end times Pope would work in cooperation with the anti-christ and be destroyed as “Mystery Babylon”. Going slightly off topic for a moment, here is a question that has not been asked up to this time: If the Vatican were to be destroyed as Hal Lindsey and others predict would that really destroy Catholicism? Not likely, therefore the reasoning behind Catholicism being the “Mystery Babylon” is a little suspicious in my book. Of course “my book” is also extra biblical and doesn’t count for a hill of beans….just as anything anyone else has to say that is not taken directly from scripture.
I would like to warn everyone at this point that just because so many Christians are giving St. Malachy and many others extra biblical predictions legitimacy you really should hold it all up to the truth of scripture; which I might add again, does NOT mention this particular prediction at all.
St. Malachy’s predictions of the previous Popes seem to be a little vague and like Nostradamus, can apply to many others, but only time will really tell; isn’t that the way the bible tells us we will know a true prophet? If his prediction holds true he call himself “Peter the Roman”.
What does this all mean for us? Well the prediction is that this Pope will be the last Pope because the world will be brought to judgment during the time of this man. The prediction goes like this…
“In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End.” – Irish Central
We’ve had many theologians weigh in on what is going on within the Roman Catholic Church and as we have seen from my last post, this Pope is unlikely to be the anti-christ as others have predicted, however, I think as far as predictions go, St. Malachy has just as much chance of being right as anyone else. I don’t put a lot of weight into extra biblical prophecy. We all know, those of us who read the bible, what Revelations has to say and we are called to read the signs of the times. The signs have been pointing towards Christ’s return for quite some time now. However, there are still a great many “biblical” prophecies yet to be fulfilled.
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There have been many theories, though few, to my knowledge, say that Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was pushed into retirement, let alone that those honest, eloquent words about no longer possessing the quality of mind and body that the papacy requires had been scripted for him. And with good reason: knowing Benedict, he probably pushed himself. Today, the average age of the Church’s cardinals, who will convene next week to begin considering candidates for the next pope, is seventy-two, and those who are under eighty—the only ones eligible to actually cast ballots in a papal conclave—were all appointed by John Paul II or, more often than not, by Benedict XVI. So it’s safe to say that the College of Cardinals has been stacked to ensure that their linea gotica continues moving backward. And never mind that the Church has been losing both priests and nuns because of a doctrine of celibacy that began not in the Gospels but in the fourth century (and was largely ignored until much later); because of a doctrine of infallibility that in fact only became canonic in 1870; and because of an institutionalized misogyny that has not only kept women from the priesthood but sends them to Hell if they drop by Planned Parenthood for a morning-after pill, or even if, like those valiant American “nuns on the bus,” they drive off without permission to minister to the poor. The list goes on. A new face, with a new infallibility chakra under his papal hat, may be the Church’s last best hope for what is now called “putting the past behind us”—“the past,” in this case, including decades of rampant, officially closeted pedophilia, involving thousands of priests preying on tens of thousands of children—and continuing its long march backward.
I once met a writer who had been working for years on a book about the Vatican. His idea was that the Catholic Church was the oldest successful corporation in the world, and he predicted that the legacy of John Paul XXIII, whose famous metaphor for the Second Vatican Council was throwing open the windows of the Church of Rome and letting in fresh air, would prove to be, corporately speaking, inconvenient. He was right. Dissident underlings are never convenient, in theology as in business.
When John Paul II was elected in 1978, he was certainly a breath of air, at least in style. He was warm. He wrote poetry. He was “the people’s pope”—a disarming populist and Mary worshipper, which endeared him, if not to Catholic intellectuals, at least to the Catholic masses trying to beat back poverty around the world. He was also a fervent anti-Communist. His support of Solidarity played a huge role in the dismantling of Soviet power that began in deeply Catholic Poland, and people loved him for that. It tended to obscure the fact that, like the Polish Church in which he’d been raised, he was profoundly conservative when it came to dogma. He instructed poor Catholic women (who filled the stadiums of the Third World to hear him) to reproduce, and to keep reproducing, and never mind if the women were struggling against all odds to feed the children they already had, or that Mary had done quite well by an only child. He refused to consider the possibility of married priests or women priests, let alone openly gay priests. What’s more, he arrived at the Holy See with what could be called a professional deformation—understandable in a priest who had spent half his life under Stalinist rule, but delusional all the same. He saw Communists everywhere, and nowhere more than in the communitarian Christian movement called liberation theology, which was the real fresh air of Roman Catholicism and, at the time, doing more to revive Catholic practice in South and Central America than any pope could, or would, short of joining that movement himself.
Enter Joseph Ratzinger, who, three years into John Paul’s papacy, in 1981, took on the role of Bad Cop to Karol Wojtyla’s Good Cop (an arrangement not unheard of in corporations). The official title was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Inquisition. It was, you could say, the job Ratzinger was born for. He made an enthusiastic stalker of “heretical” practices and opinions, so much so that the people he held in his doctrinal sniper’s sight took to calling him the Grand Inquisitor. His targets ranged from an old Tübingen University friend and mentor, Hans Küng (whom he reportedly had a hand in barring from teaching Catholic theology just before his appointment as Prefect, in 1979), to priests and teachers in progressive orders like the Jesuits. The list is long. Under his watch, America’s liberal Conference of Catholic Bishops quickly became a conservative force, responsible for, among other things, denying communion to Catholic politicians who accept that contraception and abortion rights could be granted under the Constitution of our (still) secular state. He marginalized a group of Brazilian cardinals and bishops who had risked their lives to bear witness to atrocities in the political prisons of their country’s right-wing military junta—most notably the cardinal Aloísio Lorscheider, an appointment of Paul VI (and a strong contender to succeed him) and a lifelong defender of the liberation-theology movement and its priests.
The theologian Leonardo Boff was not only one of those priests but one of the founders of the liberation movement. I knew him in Brazil, in the mid-eighties, where I was writing a piece on a liberation-theology parish priest. Boff had been sentenced to silence for a year—courtesy of Cardinal Ratzinger—for his deviant views. Happily, Boff (who would leave the priesthood six or seven years later, when Ratzinger tried to silence him again) was ignoring the Vatican’s punishment, at least at home. He was, and remains, a remarkable Christian: “as Marxist as Luke” is how he described himself and his dedication to the poor. Twenty years later, Ratzinger was Pope, and one of the words he brought with him from the C.D.F. was “deviant.” Remember his exhortation on “deviant sects,” his term for other faiths, including Christian ones? Remember, for that matter, his Regensburg speech about the inherent illogic (if not evil) of Islam? His friend Rowan Williams, the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, once told me how much he always looked forward to talking to Benedict on his unofficial visits to Rome; they shared an interest in Augustine, and Williams was, as he put it, immensely impressed by the Pope’s quality of mind. (That did not prevent Benedict from poaching on Williams’s turf when he opened the Church of Rome to Anglican priests opposed to the ordination of women bishops.)
What is “deviant”? Most of us would consider the Holocaust-denying followers of the late Marcel LeFebvre deviant. LeFebvre was a French cardinal so frighteningly racist that he and the four “bishops” he had illegally appointed were excommunicated by John Paul II. But Benedict reversed the excommunication of those bishops—on condition that they kept their views on the Holocaust to themselves. (Their silence was equivocal, given that you could read those views in the books and pamphlets they continued to sell, along with cakes and honey, in their monastery-churches.) It seems that in any reasonable church they would be considered more “deviant,” theologically, than a Leonardo Boff or a Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian liberation theologian who lived with the poor, practicing theology “from below.” And what about those child-molesting priests who, once caught, were not only protected by their bishops and, for years, ignored by the Vatican but were, instead, discreetly transferred to other parishes, where they could begin molesting again. I wish Ratzinger well in his new life of prayer. But I hope that, in the tranquility of his reflections, he reconsiders the meaning of the word “deviant.”
Photograph by Stefano Dal Pozzolo/Contrasto/Redux.
(NECN/AP) – Massachusetts Catholics are expressing support for Pope Benedict XVI, who made the surprise decision to become the first pope in almost 600 years to resign.
Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley hailed Benedict’s “courage,” and recalled the pope’s meeting in Washington, D.C., in 2008 with Boston-area victims of the clergy sex abuse crisis.
Bishop Robert Deeley, the vicar general of the Boston Archdiocese, on Monday gave thanks for Benedict’s “faithful leadership” in his eight years as pope.
Deeley, who worked directly with the pope in Rome, said Benedict has a “deep and abiding love for the Church.”
Ray Flynn, the former Boston mayor and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, called Benedict a “pious and caring priest.” Flynn called the resignation an “act of sacrifice” to make way for a more energized leader.
On Tuesday afternoon, there was much speculation that Cardinal O’Malley could be one of the Catholic leaders to be considered as the next pope.
He would become the first American pope in the history of the Catholic Church.
Mathew Schmalz, Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, joined “The Morning Show” to clarify the report and discuss what lies ahead for the church.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Tags: holy cross, Pope Benedict XVI, Sean O’Malley, Pope , Pope Benedict, the morning show, Cardinal O’Malley, Boston Cardinal, American Pope, pope retiring, Matthew Schmalz
POPE BENEDICT XVI has announced that he is to resign at the end of the month, saying he no longer has the strength to continue in office. His decision has taken the Catholic Church – which comprises more than 1.2 billion people – by surprise, and indeed shock.
In his resignation statement, which was perhaps prudently guarded, even from his most personal aides, Pope Benedict explained: “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. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which, in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter.”
Four popes have resigned in the history of the Catholic Church. Other than Celestine V and Gregory XII, they are Marcellinus, who abdicated or was deposed in 304 after complying with the Roman emperor’s order to offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods; and Benedict IX, who sold the papacy to his godfather Gregory VI and resigned in 1045. The life of the papacy reflects in many aspects the life of humanity itself, comprising both “saints and sinners”. I suggest Pope Benedict’s decision is a deeply reflective one, motivated for the enormous importance he so deeply values in this unique ministry. Papal departure has been mooted in modern times, too. Pope Pius XII was said to have lodged a letter of resignation with his Vatican aides during World War II. Many within the Church felt that Pope John Paul II should have resigned, as he endured so much suffering and ill health.
Father Vincent Twomey, an Irish priest who studied under Pope Benedict in Germany, said he was not surprised by the announcement, saying that the pope looked very tired at an annual meeting of past students in August. He praised the pope’s courage in admitting that the was physically unable for the task. Fr Twomey said he would like to see Pope Benedict’s successor coming from the ‘young Church’, pointing us towards South America and Africa – continents where the Catholic Church continues to grow and blossom.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, reflecting on Pope Benedict’s relationship with the Irish Church, said: “He was a man who wanted to know a lot about what was happening in Irish society, not in a way of pointing fingers but of trying to learn and asking me and the Irish Church where are we in today’s society.”
The archbishop believed that history would look at the pope in a ‘varied way’. Dr Martin said that Pope Benedict had a very clear understanding of some of the moral problems in the Church and he had addressed them ‘head-on’.
From the Irish viewpoint, the greatest discontent with the Church has arisen on the issue of clerical child sexual abuse and the issue has still not satisfactorily been explained by the Vatican. However, Benedict’s pontificate had zero tolerance regarding paedophile clergy. His summoning of the Irish hierarchy, following the publication of the ***Murphy Report*** highlights Benedict’s deep concern regarding the dysfunctional handling of this most dreadful reality.
History, perhaps, will note Pope Benedict as a scholastic father, determined to uphold what is best in a tradition, which he upheld and was determined to conserve. His writings are abundantly rich in insight and depth, including his prolific biography of Jesus of Nazareth – the first pontiff to publish such a remarkable account of the life of Christ. Pope Benedict’s, departure is fuelled with integrity and courage.
Perhaps this resignation is a prophetic action that will renew even the papacy itself. In his resignation statement, Benedict takes a huge step towards the demystification of the world’s oldest and most sacred office, with the quiet insistence that one has to be up to the job. A gauntlet has now been laid down now to those entrusted to choose his successor. I hope that the fresh winds of early spring will attune the forthcoming conclave to the voice of the spirit, selecting an energetic pontiff who can embrace with faith, hope and love this most sacred office.
JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — For the first time in about 600 years, a Pope is resigning, and people are split about what implications it will have on the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world when he announced he would resign February 28, saying he was too infirm to perform his duties.
Associate history professor at the University of Missouri Lois Huneycutt said the importance of this decision cannot be underestimated.
“It’s historically unprecedented, it’s theologically problematic, it’s going to be talked about,” she said. ”In the history of the Catholic Church a thousand years from now this is going to be talked about.”She also said that the Catholic Church has to be wary of a precedent the Pope’s resignation may set.
“It kind of opens the door if there are future resignations, how do you know that these are not under pressure, are not politically motivated, that these are not really problematic.”
Monsignor David Cox, from Immaculate Conception Church in Jefferson City, said the Pope’s ability to make the decision shows how much the Catholic leader cares for the Church.
“I’m extremely hopeful because just for Pope Benedict to realize that he is unhealthy enough that he can’t lead the church, and that somebody else should step up and do that I think that that’s really spirit-led,” he said. “It’s a gift from God to the church.”
He also said that he believes this whole process is being guided by a higher power.
“The Holy Spirit is guiding the Church and if the Pope’s decided that this is what he should do through his prayer and reflection, then it’s going to be a tremendous thing for us,” he said.
John Gaydos, Bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City released this statement earlier Monday:
“As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, prepares to retire from his ministry as Universal Pastor of the Church, all of the people of God in our Diocese of Jefferson City offer fervent thanks to God for the nearly eight years that Pope Benedict has exercised the Petrine ministry. He has taught clearly and wisely, he has ruled gently and firmly, he has prayed with and for us and the whole world. I am grateful that our Holy Father has come to this prayerful decision, and ask all of our Local Church and all people of good will to join together in praying to God for the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit during this time of transition for the Catholic Church throughout the world.”
SPIEGEL: What will change now that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned?
Hans Küng: There is now a realization that a pope should step down when the time has come. Joseph Ratzinger made it very clear that he could no longer fulfill his duties. His predecessor felt he had to turn his death into a show. Fortunately, Benedict chose another way, in order to demonstrate that when a pope is no longer capable of doing his job, he should give it up. This is exactly how the office should be approached. In John Paul II’s final years, we weren’t led by a pope so much as by a curia, which governed the Church in his place.
SPIEGEL: Who would you like to see lead your Church as pope?
Hans Küng: A pope who is not intellectually stuck in the Middle Ages, one who does not represent mediaeval theology, liturgy and religious order. I would like to see a pope who is open first to suggestions for reform and secondly, to the modern age. We need a pope who not only preaches freedom of the Church around the world but also supports, with his words and deeds, freedom and human rights within the Church — of theologians, women and all Catholics who want to speak the truth about the state of the Church and are calling for change.
SPIEGEL: Who is your ideal candidate for the office of pope?
Hans Küng: If I were to name anyone, he would most certainly not get elected. But background should not play a role. The best man for the job should be elected. There are no more candidates who belonged to the Second Vatican Council. In the running are candidates who are middle of the road and toe the Vatican line. Is there anyone who won’t simply continue on the same path? Is there anyone who understands the depth of the Church’s crisis and can see a way out? If we elect a leader who continues on the same path, the Church’s crisis will become almost intractable.
SPIEGEL: Is there likely to be friction between the former pope and the incumbent pope?
Hans Küng: Benedict XVI could turn into a shadow pope who has stepped down but can still exert indirect influence. He has already assigned himself a place within the Vatican. He is keeping his secretary, who will also remain prefect of the papal household under the new pope. This is a new form of nepotism, and one that isn’t appreciated in the Vatican either. No priest likes to have his predecessor looking over his shoulder. Even the bishop of Rome doesn’t find it pleasant to have his predecessor constantly keeping an eye on him.
SPIEGEL: So the new pope will have a hard time asserting himself?
Hans Küng: If the next pope is clever, he will appoint a cabinet that will allow him to lead effectively. A solitary pope, isolated from the curia the way that Ratzinger was, will not be able to lead a community of 1.2 billion people. The pope urgently needs a cabinet made up of new, competent men (and why not women, too) in order to overcome the crisis. Unless there is an end to the tradition of the Roman royal household and an introduction of a functioning, central church administration as well as a curia reform, no new pope will be able to bring about change and progress.