Pope Benedict XVI made the right decision
Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement on Feb. 11 that he would resign on Feb. 28 came as a surprise to many, despite his recent and obvious physical decline. In his resignation speech, he stated that “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have to come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
This marks the first resignation of a pope in nearly 600 years, and it comes right at the beginning of Lent. Of course, medical issues and physical and mental decline cannot be planned for, and it is obvious that Pope Benedict is doing what he feels is best for the Catholic Church. He is nearly 86 years of age, and recognizes that the more than one billion Catholics around the world need a strong leader – and that circumstances out of his control have made him not up to the task. As of press time, no specific illness has been cited for the cause.
While the Pope’s resignation is indeed a rare occurrence, in 1989 Pope John Paul II put regulations for resignation in place, and even prepared his own letters of resignation in 1994, in the event of an illness or disability. He never used them, choosing instead to serve as pope up until his death in 2005. It has been said that the decision to continue to serve despite illness and disabilities caused Pope John Paul II to not be able to deal with the challenges that the church was facing effectively, including the sexual abuse crisis.
Pope Benedict XVI was 78 when he was elected pontiff, making him the oldest pope to be elected in nearly 300 years. His years of dedicated service to the Catholic Church, and to the world, will not be forgotten. And in his resignation, he continues to put the church first, which is further proof of his dedication – Pope Benedict clearly wants what is best for the Catholic Church, and realizes that he is no longer the best person to lead it.