I have to admit that the Holy Father has proved me wrong again. Not only did I think it was unlikely that he would resign, I had thought that he would be wrong to do so.
However, I am quite certain that he is both wiser and holier than me, and that if he discerns that is what the Holy Spirit is calling him to do, then it is evident that he must do it.
My reservations sprang from my familial view of the Church. We call him a Holy Father for a reason, and my thinking was that he could no more step down from that role than I could step down from being the father to my children.
However, the analogy was imperfect: time and again God raises up a new Holy Father to lead the Church on earth; and Pope Benedict clearly trusts God to do so wisely again. How could he not?
Of course it is tempting to speculate why he has done so; not least after the astonishing witness borne by his predecessor, who visibly poured his life away as a libation...
But perhaps Pope Benedict is also aware that there were those who took advantage of John Paul ll's self-sacrifice to do things in his name which he would not have sanctioned - and is determined not to allow that to happen again.
And it is certainly the case that the role is immensely more burdensome and important than any other I can imagine, so the simple recognition of failing strength and ultimately health means that stepping aside in favour of a younger stronger man makes perfect sense.
In any event, we owe Pope Benedict an immense debt of gratitude for his papacy: and we can best repay that debt by praying for him and for his successor.
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