Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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.

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Blogger PJMULVEY said...

Great post Martin. The pope's act reminds me of the famous quote by King George III about General George Washington. " In London, George III questioned the American-born painter Benjamin West what Washington would do now he had won the war. "Oh," said West, "they say he will return to his farm." "If he does that," said the king, "he will be the greatest man in the world." That was the first time he resigned 'power' and after he was elected President Washington resigned after two terms - there was no precedent that a president should not run for as long as he wished. Very great men realize that they are only players on a stage as Shakespeare wrote long ago. Pope Benedict, by this singular act, minimizes the 'cultish' aspects of the Petrine ministry, which give false ammunition to the enemies of the Church while blinding sme of its adherents that the office is much much bigger than any man.

12 February, 2013 14:37  
Blogger Martin said...

Thanks, Patrick, that's very kind of you; and that's a great point about cultishness surrounding the man who occupies the papacy. For better or worse, the technology available to us in our time has made the papacy more accessible, and that accessibility, combined with journalism's instaibale appetite for personality over content, may have helped induce some people, perhaps entirely unwittingly, to see the man in the robes rather than the rather than the context and message of the robes. The popes themselves would, I'm sure, be mortified at the idea that that might have happened; but it might have.

12 February, 2013 22:04  
Blogger James Higham said...

Martin, I am Protestant. I don't buy into the Pope is evil thing and do think there are millions of devout Catholics.

My two posts on the Vatican are not anti-Catholic, they are anti the symbols used. As far as I can see, the Pope himself seems OK.

Yet there are worrying aspects at the Vatican, all the same. He may well have resigned for the good of the church, it's not something I feel I can comment on.

14 February, 2013 08:32  
Blogger Martin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

15 February, 2013 23:17  
Blogger Martin said...


My original comment read 'Fear not', but I thought that was silly and deleted it. History is the bleach of scandal - eventually everything comes out in the wash. We'll see.

15 February, 2013 23:19  

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