At the break of dawn, Monday, Feb 11, a text message from a priest friend that read “the pope will resign on February 28…” interrupted my sleep in a heartbeat. When I checked the news online, it was all over the media outlets, spreading like wildfire which came as a no surprise at all being the leader of more than 1 Billion flock. It shocked the world as anybody else probably would. It has brought me to a halt every time it crossed my mind at least for the past few days.
I didn’t realize it’s been over 600 years since a Pope last resigned. His Holiness clearly mentioned in his monday morning announcement (written and delivered in latin) that his deeply meditated decision before God with all the freedom of conscience was due to his ailing health and advanced age. It must have been devastating for those who heard it first hand who thought it was just an ordinary briefing.
It was common knowledge that the very nature of Petrine Ministry and the work load was overwhelming for anyone regardless of the age bracket. He was well aware that amplified by the current issues the church faces, it took a lot to carry out the Holy Office for a 85 year old Pontiff, which by and large, may be interpreted as a burden and rightfully so. It wasn’t simply about writing books and encyclicals in the hallowed halls of his office. There’s a lot involved on it for which I’m not in a position to comment. In a profound gesture of humility, he believed that it would be in the best interest of the church he loved and cared so much with every ounce of energy if he resigned from the throne of Peter, the highest office in the Catholic Church and let someone, TBD under the influence of the Holy Spirit in a conclave, take over.
Isn’t God surprising?
The resignation was evangelization. It was timely. It made us realize how vital the role of the Holy Father was. It brought us Catholics to our heels. It has awaken and shaken us to the depths of our belief in ways more than we can imagine. What’s next for my church? Which direction are we heading? Where do we go from here? How about you? What have you done?
I deeply admired him for his saintly act of humility recognizing understandably his failing energy and courage in taking this bold and radical step almost unprecedented in the eyes of many, a striking break from the past, centuries of tradition and history so to speak, shocking and surprising as never before, a ministry like no other seen as dying in office.
Back in April of 2005, when he succeeded JPII, his papacy was viewed as transitional and yet, in a span of 8 years, he made huge and dramatic impact, though it wasn’t without controversy (usually the case), by laying down the Catholic world view against the arising economic and moral (relativism) theories contrary to the church teaching through his numerous books and encyclicals (Caritas en Veritate, Spes Salvi and Deus Caritas Est), not to mention the New Edition of the Roman Missal. Entonces, his teaching legacy will be remembered in years to come but more importantly, his unexpected departure.
Formed under the Pontificate of JPII, ordained during the papacy of Benedict XVI…Amen.