A humility that shocks the world

Ever since he was elected to the See of Peter in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has constantly been compared with Senator/Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine, with no account made of their vastly different characters.

Alas, it seems that the nerdy Pontiff has finally outfoxed all his internet critics in an act of shocking humility - the abdication of his Petrine Ministry and from the office of Pope. The full text of his abdication now follows:

Dear brothers,

I have convoked you to this consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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. 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 barque of St. 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 recognize 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 St. Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on April 19, 2005, in such a way, that as from Feb. 28, 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry, and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the holy Church to the care of our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the cardinal fathers with her maternal solicitude in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, February 10, 2013


I must tip my hat to LarryD over at Acts of the Apostasy, who gave me the first word on this very shocking announcement. It seems that everyone was stunned, even many within the Vatican, and considering that the last Pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415, very near to 600 years ago, it's no surprise that wer are all surprised. I know I am, and saddened too.

But on reflection, for this to come like lightning from a clear sky is perhaps the wiliest move by the Pope. His Holiness was under no great pressure on any issue to resign, and so no one can claim that this resignation as a victory for a particular scandal, abuse or corruption, even if it is greeted by the many enemies of the Church with cheers and joy (for that us but a reaction, and thus they are reduced to mere spectators of this ancient tradition's robust continuation). Thus, while it opens the precedent for his successors to follow on and abdicate, it does so without any hint or suggestion that one might be forced from the Papal office by so many stinkmakers, be they of a sedevacantist or liberal bent.

It is also worth reflecting on the Pope's previous actions and statements. Scott Hahn has noted how often Pope Benedict has (unnoticed) sought the intercession of Pope Celestine V, who was the first Pope to officially resign, and who was placed in Hell by Dante and Heaven (by canonisation) by the Church. It is also noted by the BBC that his schedule had been pared back, while also his remarks in the book Light of the World are indicative of his attitude towards a possible resignation, as he stated that if a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.

The act is also a recognition of the adaptations the Papacy has made to the modern world, specifically in the form of increased visibility and accessibility. The Mad Monarchist laments the decision, and points out that previous Popes didn't even leave the Vatican City, and yet still effectively led the Universal Church. However, this fails to account for the enormous charisma and legacy of Blessed John Paul II, whose willingness to travel brought the Faith all around the world, and especially to the young through World Youth Day. Ergo, I believe His Holiness is making a prudent decision, for the mere physical demands of the job have increased beyond what was in the past expected.

And so it is worthy of looking at the humility of these two men - Benedict XVI and John Paul II. John Paul II, in humility, maintained his post and his calling, while Benedict XVI, in humility, gave it up. Perseverence in holiness and detachment from power are the marks of great humility, and well worth venerating and imitating. Aggie Catholic has even more on this.

And so the reign of Pope Benedict XVI shall come to an end, and a new Pope shall be elected to continue the race. While all I really remember of Pope John Paul II was the old, infirm man who I could barely even hear speak, Benedict's sparkling liveliness shall always be fondly recalled in my heart. I remember at World Youth Day Madrid, when he recieved a ten-gallon hat, that he put it on sideways, and how, on the Friday of that week, I was so close, but a few metres away, and how he stopped a short way down to bless a baby, to the cheers of all around me.

As a nerd and a geek, he was exactly my kind of Pope. I'm sad that he has made this choice, but I rejoice in what he has done. When he was elected, I was as Catholic as most politicians. Now, I might dare to say, I've found a path to sainthood.

So farewell you great and geeky Pope! You are much loved, and your wit shall be greatly missed. May your shocking and great humility inspire us all for the greater glory of God.

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