In a shock to the Roman Catholic world, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he plans on resigning on February 28 after less than eight years in office. His Holiness is citing the fact that, to put it bluntly, he's just too old to carry out his papal duties anymore as the reason for his resignation. According to a Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, a successor could be elected by Easter, March 31. But, he clarified that that timeline is "not an announcement, [but] a hypothesis."
The Catholic church faced many scandals during Pope Benedict's conservative papacy, forcing many to question him, as well as the church in general, but, regardless of what one's thoughts are on the job he did while serving, it's hard to deny that his resignation speech wasn't both profound and humble. Pope Benedict said:
"In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom, I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter."
Personally, I think it's admirable for the Pope, who turns 86 in April, to break tradition and resign. Rarely do we see leaders -- of any office -- step down due to getting older. In fact, this is the first time a pope has voluntarily stepped down in over 600 years. Typically, they, like his predecessor Pope John Paul II, die while in office. It takes a certain kind of person to swallow their pride and admit to themselves that they can no longer perform the tasks expected of them. As opposed to staying in office until his last breath, he's exiting gracefully.
Of course, he's also left the world wondering -- and worrying -- who will take his place. With the pressure of having to choose someone so quickly, will it be the right choice? Choosing a pope isn't something that's done willy-nilly. USA Today published a list of possible successors to Pope Benedict, as speculated by "Vatican experts", and my money's on one of the men listed. I think, typically, there's a general sense of who may fill the shoes and who's out of the question.
So, looks like come Easter (give or take), we'll have a new person in the highest position in the Catholic Church. It's obviously not going to please everyone, and I'm sure it'll stir some controversy, but I don't think I'm alone when I say: A change might be in order after all.
What do you think of Pope Benedict's resignation?
Image via Sergey Gabdurakhmanov/Flickr