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Benedict XVI resigns

Pope Benedict XVI has announced he will resign at the end of the month due to health reasons. According to the AP, the 85-year-old pontiff announced the decision in Latin to cardinals in the Vatican this morning. Here is the statement from the Vatican Web site:

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 todays 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.

  

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I've been thinking just a little bit more about Weigel's characterization of this as an abdication. "To abdicate" has a vaguely negative connotation in my mind, no doubt because of Shakespeare, but if that word can be used in a neutral and descriptive fashion, it does seem to be the accurate term for what is happening here.If I may pose this question, though: has "to abdicate" earned its negative connotation? The two examples that spring immediately to mind are Lear and Edward VIII, and neither the fictional nor the real-life episode is particularly happy or admirable.Without wishing to criticize the Holy Father in any way, it might be worth noting that his decision does pose a risk, perhaps a substantial risk, to the church. It is possible that the College of Cardinals will choose a guy who will do a terrible job.There are times when the responsible thing to do is to not walk away, even though that decision entails substantial burdens and suffering. Whether that will have turned out to be the case here, we will have to wait and see, I expect.

Perhaps to those less erudite, the example that springs immediately to mind is the abdication of Edward VIII, who was betrayed by Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury, and vilified for the next several decades by media. (He left the boring job to marry a "twice-divorced American." Oooh.) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2136672/The-madness-King-Edward-...Without wishing to criticize the Holy Father in any way, it might be worth noting that his decision does pose a risk, perhaps a substantial risk, to the church. It is possible that the College of Cardinals will choose a guy who will do a terrible job.What risk does his decision pose? When a person recognizes that his mental and physical strengths have waned to the point where he can no longer do his job, he should let someone else take over. I don't think the cardinals will elect a "guy" who will take the Church off the trail St. Escriva has blazed. (They can even select a layman. Maybe Hahn or Donohue or Weigel.) Thinking "the responsible thing to do is to not walk away" borders on idolatry, imho. The Church should be led by a person mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually strong. The fact that Benedict has the humility to recognize that, at 85, he is no longer the man he was is something to be admired, not condemned as irresponsible.I think everyone, of every age, should take a lesson from Benedict XVI. Life is short. If you're doing something you can't do well anymore or aren't enjoying anymore, QUIT. Spend your remaining days doing only what you like.

Jim: I am quite certain that Pope Benedict has spent much time pondering the questions you raise.He certainly could have continued, in spite of diminishing strength, and could simply have let the Curia be more and more in charge.Perhaps he is not entirely happy with Vatican decisions and directions in the last few months, but feels too weak to step in and fight. (Has there been a change in tone at the Vatican this past year?) Perhaps his decision could be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the Curia.

Liturgically I think that this past year there has been more old stuff (strange vestments and such) coming out. Is that all his choice, or have his master of ceremonies, secretary, etc., been pushing for such innovations? We don't know.In terms of speeches, we discussed (http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=21246 ) the contrast between two papal texts on two consecutive days at the time of the anniversary of the opening of the Council: the Wednesday text, "Pope Benedict at his finest" (dixit John Page), and the Thursday text, "reductionist" (dixit Robert Mickens): I personally believe that he wrote the one but not the other. Pope Benedict simply cannot trust his aides to write his speeches for him. They may try to imitate him, but they are less gifted and more biased.He may have surrounded himself by people whose loyalty he trusts but whose judgment and intellect are both inferior to his.

Le Monde on its second page today says that Benedict has now normalized the papacy. His successors will feel a moral obligation to retire once age begins to weigh, and the papal office will be demystified as that of cardinals or bishops has been.

Jim P - agree with comment about *abdication*.....the Petrine office is just that an office or ministry.....not an ontological state of being. Thus, he resigns from an office that is not hereditary,etc; thus, no abdication.

Jim P. ==Be not afraid. Things might become worse, but they might become better. Life is risk.

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