It’s been a day now since the news from Pope Benedict XVI that he would be resigning from the papacy on Feb.28th of this year.
The speculation and (quite frankly) the silliness surrounding this news just amazes me. The responses in the mainstream media range from stories of odds-makers posting the most likely candidates to fill the position, to a whole host of ‘end of times’ prognosticators pointing to this resignation as proof positive that the prophecies of St. Malachy are being fulfilled (never mind, of course that the so-called prophecies were discredited years ago, found to have been written several centuries after the death of St. Malachy – oh yeah, and forget that little seldom remembered gem from St. Matthew’s Gospel 24:36 quoting Jesus to the disciples that no one knows when the end will come except God, and He’s not telling anyone! But I digress…) to unkind speculation as to the Holy Father’s mental state, political intrigue within the Vatican, etc.
Simply put, the ‘burden’ of the ministry of the Chair of Peter is enormous, and would crush the life out of anyone half the age of the current pope (he was 78 when he was elected in 2005).
Regardless of his reasons – and they are his reasons, not anyone else’s; he says it was health-related; leave it at that – he should be thanked for his dedicated service to God and to the world’s 1.2 or so billion Catholics. He has worked continually for unity among all people of faith traditions; for a re-evangelization of (particularly) the west which seems to have rewritten history and with it, the Church’s place in the establishment of western culture, institutions and many of the benefits in law and good governance that we take for granted; for a deeper sense of the movement and goodness of God in all aspects of human affairs.
Following in the footsteps (or perhaps shadow) of his predecessor, Bl. John Paul II, would have been a daunting task for anyone. Yet Pope Benedict XVI, with grace and style, took up the mantle and rose to the occasion.
I expect his writings and his own impact on the life of the Church will be the subject of much discussion and study for years to come. (and interestingly enough, unlike other popes, he will be around to see part of his own legacy).
It doesn’t matter at this particular moment who will succeed him. That is up to the movement of the Holy Spirit and the influence of the Spirit on the cardinals in conclave. It doesn’t matter what the bookmakers predict, what the journalists and analysts expect, or even what those with a social agenda prefer.
It’s up to God – let God fill the chair that is being vacated by His servant as He sees fit.
Pray for Pope Benedict XVI. Pray for the Church. Pray that God’s will be done.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!