In case you missed it, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation yesterday, stating that he no longer has the strength of mind and body to carry out the duties of his office.
This had to be an extremely difficult decision for the Pope. My feeling is that he did not want to leave the Church "unshepherded" in any way due to his own physical decline. It was heartbreaking to watch Pope John Paul II as his illness swallowed him up. This will give Pope Benedict the opportunity (if asked) to serve as a mentor to his successor, and it gives a wonderful example to the world of how to bear with great dignity, and even generosity, the indignities that come with the aging process.
It is telling, I think, that he has announced his decision to spend the rest of his life dedicated to prayer. In a fast-paced world, that is an excellent reminder to the Church of the importance of prayer, something which it is all too easy to neglect when things get busy--or we just get lazy.
I am saddened that it had to happen, but I believe that Pope Benedict made his decision with the good of the Church foremost in his heart.
As to the insinuations I have heard that he is running away from the sexual-abuse scandals, it's hard to believe that this would be the case. He's not the type of person to run away from a challenge or to walk away when the going gets tough. There is a difference between that kind of escapism and the simple acceptance of the fact that his physical condition will no longer permit him to carry out the duties of the office.
And to those who think that this is an opportunity to in some way "modernize" the Church, I will just say that my prayer is that the next Pope will be faithful.
I pray for Benedict XVI and for his successor, and for the Church.
image credit: Kelly Wahlquist