I think the Universal Church is astonished today at the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the See of Peter which will be official next Thursday, February 28th (Feast of Pope St. Hilary). His letter of resignation is profound:
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 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 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 Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint 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.”
It has been almost 600 years (1415) since a Pope has resigned from the Papacy. I would like to share a few thoughts about todays announcement:
1) Pope Benedict’s humility is evident in this announcements and he realizes the great significance of his decision.
2) I find his letter filled with courage being in on the heals of Blessed John Paul II who with great suffering and courage himself persevered. But I wonder if he saw things we didn’t see about the effects of a pope who could not perform the tasks that were necessary of the Office of Peter. I admire Him for his courage and what I’d call “leadership” to do what he thought best for Christ’s Church.
3) The conclusion was most touching as he spoke of entrusting “the Holy Church to the care of the Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary…”
4) Let us together seek the guidance, strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit as the college of Cardinals discern who is to lead Christ’s Church on earth next. Since Lent is just a couple of days away, let us seek to make small sacrifices for the sake of the Cardinals who will prayerfully choose with God’s help the next vicar of Christ.