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The Pope explains

From today's papal audience:As you know, I have decided thank you for your kindness to renounce the ministry which the Lord entrusted to me on 19 April 2005. I have done this in full freedom for the good of the Church, after much prayer and having examined my conscience before God, knowing full well the seriousness of this act, but also realizing that I am no longer able to carry out the Petrine ministry with the strength which it demands. I am strengthened and reassured by the certainty that the Church is Christs, who will never leave her without his guidance and care. I thank all of you for the love and for the prayers with which you have accompanied me. Thank you; in these days which have not been easy for me, I have felt almost physically the power of prayer your prayers which the love of the Church has given me. Continue to pray for me, for the Church and for the future Pope. The Lord will guide us.

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He witnessed first hand the long, long agony of Pope John Paul and what it cost the Church. This traditional pope had to make a concession to a modern world which changes so fast, and thank God for that. But it does change the drama of th papacy. The pope becomes a different kind of father, like a father abbot. Interesting that he chose the name Benedict.

I have not heard this from serious commentators, but I have seen a few "person on the street" interviews in which people seem outraged. "The pope can't quit! He is pope until he dies!" I wonder if any "serious" people are taking this view. It seems to me extraordinarily presumptuous for anyone to claim they know better than Benedict whether he should resign or not.

I saw somewhere this morning, forget where, that some big shots are reconsidering allowing Benedict to live in the Vatican.I think it's a good idea to have the former pope live close to the current pope. Who else knows what it's like? Just like The Presidents' Club. Who else can speak freely, give blunt advice, etc.? To have a friend with whom he can relax and be a real person would be great for a pope.

I think it's generally a bad idea. It would too easily give rise to the notion that the Pope Emeritus is pulling the strings, a power behind the throne. Even if he were not doing that, people would suspect it of being true. Appearances are important, and Rome is enough of a rumor mill as it is.

Many Protestant denominations do not allow former pastors to be involved in any way, shape or form in their former congregations for a certain period of time.I think that they have found out that "out of sight, out of mind" is a good thing when it comes to giving the new pastor the chance to do what (s)he thinks needs to be done without having the old influence huddling in the wings.

I wonder if he has another book in him?

Even if he continues writing, he is not going to publish anything anymore. It'll have to wait until after he dies. The encyclical on faith is not going to appear either.

Cardinal Desmond Connell said with reference to Cardinal Cathal B. Daly on Irish radio that retired cardinals should "get lost". B16 will need security to protect him against crazies, but the idea of him lodging in the Vatican is unwholesome.

He could write another autobiographical memoir or interview-book, "My Years as Pope" -- publishers would pay billions.

Interesting that in his speech on Ottaviani's centenary in 1991 he said he admired the silence of his later years.

To repeat, in the Benedictine tradition, abbots who have resigned must leave the abbey for a year after their successors assume office.I believe Benedict XVI should leave Rome permanently at the end of his term.

Right, Carolyn. If the Pope had known who would be the next pope and knew he'd be welcome, it would be different. This way it's sort of like your mother-in-law moving in at the start of a marriage.

Carolyn, why do you think he seems to have no plans to leave?Could it be for security reasons?Or because he does not have long to live, so that moving would cause more stress than it's worth?Or because the curia is worried that back in Germany some people would try to put him on trial and would make his life miserable?I can't think of any other possible reason right now.

Claire,I have no clue as to Benedict's plans, but came across this in a John Allen column today:"On background, one Vatican prelate said today that some cardinals are concerned about Benedict's decision to live on Vatican grounds after his retirement, fearing it might cast a shadow over the new pope. Perhaps it would be better, he said, for Benedict to find a monastery in Germany to call home."I am thinking of giving the new papacy a chance to take root without whatever levers of influence might circulate or circumscribe its direction.If he is too old or ill to move, that is another matter. I thought he had expressed a desire before to return to Germany and be with his brother.

More on the question of where Benedict should live, especially since his brother said Benedict would be available to advise his successor. Sodano vs Bertone is already an issue as the process takes shape:"Pressure grows on Pope to leave Rome after he retires so he does not interfere with successor's work"http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2278387/Pope-Benedict-Pressure-g...

Carolyn, it seems to me that Pope Benedict would agree with you and with that anonymous Vatican prelate. It's common sense. So there might be other concerns: terrorist threats, doctors' warnings, moves to sue him he might remain prisoner of his position (like on all those photos on which he is only visible behind candles that look like prison bars) even beyond resignation.

A late night fantasy: maybe the curia has shielded him from the news so well that he has remained in ignorance of certain important things that would shock him if he got out, and then he would realize that he's been tricked into having an image of the world that is distorted from reality (and thus manipulated to take decisions that were misinformed). Sort of like in "Goodbye Lenin".

I think that ,as a courtesy to the Pope, and in recognition of his advanced age, he should be allowed to live where ever he wants. Who knows, the new Pope might be delighted to have him close by. A new Pope who finds it a problem o have an elderly former Pope around wouldn't be much of a Pope. And he certainly wouldn't be much of an example to the rest of us as to how we should treat old people.

The video of the Pope in St. Peter's and in the audience-hall show him looking very frail indeed. I wonder if his health is much poorer than we knew. Or could it be that his resignation was also a resignation of himself into the hands of God, and so a terrific relief. I've watched people resign themselves peacefully and they often go very quickly after they've done that.

The Pope's brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, stated in a recent interview that his brother has been away from Germany for so long that it would be difficult for him to "transplant" back to his native Bavaria. This may be true, of course, or perhaps as Fr. Komonchak wonders, the Pope's health may be more precarious than the public knows.

Msgr. Georg Ratzinger talks way too much.

Agree, Joseph and William. Benedict may be close to the end. And maybe he realizes, as Thomas Aquinas did at the end of his life, that it's all straw.

Another puzzlement. Why did Pope Benedict choose to announce his resignation two days before Ash Wednesday, with the date of his departure two weeks into Lent, a conclave starting two weeks after that, with Holy Week and Easter then looming? Why not wait until after Easter? Perhaps because he knew he wouldn't be up for the Holy Week services? Perhaps because he couldn't be sure to live till then? Perhaps because he didn't want to be talked out of it? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I get the impression of something done precipitously, even if considered and meditated on for some time.Another thought: Some people are wondering how the Church will fare with having two popes at the same time, even though, of course, there will be only one. People have always delighted in contrasting new pope with former pope, but we haven't had the situation we're going to have in a few weeks. You don't have to know much Church history or to have a novelist's imagination to conjure up tensions and worse between supporters of the former pope, now still alive, and supporters of the new pope, and one way to forestall the former pope's being involved in any shenanigans is to have him close at hand, in the Vatican.

Agree. I thought maybe chemotherapy or something like that, but even if he's healthy (for an 85-year-old), Holy Week is pretty rough. Just getting dressed in all that gear for the various ceremonies would be exhausting. I thought choosing the day before Ash Wednesday was perfect. On Ash Wednesday we are reminded that we're nothing but dust. And that includes popes, pharaohs, etc. Open their sarcophagi and see what's left. I thought maybe he felt that his mind was going, but reading about him speaking extemp yesterday about his role at the Council makes me think he's okay in that dept. I wish he'd clear up a couple of thing: why did he not know or pretend not to know about the denial of the Holocaust by those guys? The simplest Internet search reveals all kinds of nasty stuff about that org. Why not give the Church a parting gift: a clear statement of what's going on with various groups like that one and others? As to two popes, what power will Benedict have? Let's say Dolan is elected. He moves into the papal apts., and BXVI is in the monastery out back. Will Dolan be intimidated? Will B's henchpeople try to stiff-arm T into doing what B wants? I don't think so.

Please, let's not say Dolan is elected.

Maybe Pope Benedict timed his retirement to bring on a new Pope just at Easter. That would be a great time to install a new pope.

Perhaps because he couldnt be sure to live till the Holy Week services? Perhaps because []Perhaps. But after reading Jim Jenkins' report of an ugly rumor, I'm done with random speculations. The fun is gone. They're fun only as long as they are completely unfounded.

Please, lets not say Dolan is elected.He would be so much better than any of the other cardinals with all their baggage.He's American.He's energetic, friendly, charming, charismatic. He wrote a great book about the great Edwin Vincent O'Hara.http://www.amazon.com/Some-Seed-Fell-Good-Ground/dp/0813207487%3FSubscri...(What about a poll, editors?)

Gerelyn-Read his blog regularly on the Archdiocesan website and see if yous till feel the same way. The main topics of his blog posts (in order of frequency):Self promotionComplaining about the HHS mandateComplaining about the NY TimesApplauding Bill DonohueBaldly promoting Republican candidates for office(or in the alternative, undermining Democratc candidates)Trashing SNAP.Maybe he's better than his blog indicates, but he seems to me to be as conservative as the current Pope, without the current Pope's intellect or amazing ability to surprise.

Hi, Irene! Which of the cardinals would you prefer? Which is not skilled at self promotion? Among the American cardinals:Which does not support the Republican (elephant) Party? Which did not complain about the HHS mandate (as the editors of Commonweal did as well)? Which does not complain about the NYT (as Commonweal's editors and contributors routinely do)? Which does not have a Bill Donohue to bark at the lambs? Which does not baldly promote Republicans? Which does not trash anyone or any organization that seeks to help victims of clerical predators? Etc.Dolan has a lot more to him than the rest of them. And as pope, untrammeled, he might have the courage, imagination, and energy to kick open some doors that have been locked for centuries.I won't be reading his blog, but I hope you'll consider reading his book about Bishop O'Hara. You'll see that a man capable of admiring the great liberal O'Hara has more to him than is apparent. Timothy for Pope! (It would get him out of your archdiocese.)

I don't think there are any American Cardinals who would make a good Pope. I would like to see a progressive Pope from any country (but that pretty much eliminates the US). If we can't have a progressive Pope, I would like to see a Pope that comes from an emerging nation.But I will read the book on Bishop O'Hara.

Great! As to a progressive pope from another country, who would that be? The cultural baggage they bear and the debts they owe to the various groups who made it possible for them to scale the heights make them . . . scary. (To this little lamb, anyway.)

Gerelyn said: Please, lets not say Dolan is elected. He would be so much better than any of the other cardinals with all their baggage.Do you honestly think that The Tim would be better than Diarmuid Martin? Really ?????

I still think that the best candidate, hands down, is Mary McAleese.

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.