The Resignation Of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
In a world riven through with ideology, it is humbling to witness such humility, the antithesis of ideology, in action; and in days when ideology is expected to hold the answers to all of life's difficulties as well. If only our own partisans, and those who make idols of nations, were so critical of their own capabilities as His Holiness has been of his.
This is not mere leadership, for sometimes the greatest leadership a leader can show is stopping leading. In resigning office in the very simple and gracious manner he has, His Holiness has given good example to every other officeholder in the world; and no earthly teacher, such as he is, could ever provide a wider or better lesson than that.
One can be sure that this decision will not have been taken without great prayer and reflection, and it is disquieting to think how many column inches will be filled with futile theorising in respect of his successor's identity in the weeks ahead, as if a conclave were some sort of demographic beauty contest. The office it will elect is God's to fill, and many journalists would better serve both their readers and themselves by occasionally mentioning that.
This resignation is not a maneouvre. There is no personal angle for His Holiness in this move. There is no triangulation involved in this, nor any attempt to court a demographic. This is the action of a man with the burden of the world on his shoulders who has realised that he cannot bear it any longer; and for the world's sake, and not his own, he is passing it to someone else. If he thought that he could continue, he would; but he can't, so he won't.
I very much doubt whether he will make many appearances in public after he departs from office; it may be unlikely that his health will permit them. In gratitude for his unfailing service, his piety, his prayerfulness, his devotion to study, his gentleness and his simplicity, he will have the prayers of all his flock; may his health improve; may his successor be as devoted to the care of his flock as he has been, and ignore the stinging arrows of the world; and in all things may the most holy, most sublime will of God be done, praised and exalted, now and forever.