Pope Benedict’s announcement of his retirement at the end of this month has taken us by surprise. After all, of the 265 Popes in history, only two have resigned, the last in 1415.
Yet, on reflection the decision will be recognised as quite in character with this humble and courageous leader, who has always been a clear thinker and a man of decisive action.
In his own words he has “come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of the burden of a Pope’s ministry in meeting the challenges facing the Church and the world today.
The Church is always moving on, and by Easter we expect a new Pope to be elected to lead the Catholic Church. I ask people of faith for their prayers in this process which commences on 28 February, and to remember Pope Benedict with gratitude for his Christian teaching and leadership.
How will we remember Pope Benedict XVI?
Many Australians will remember the spirit and joy of his visit to Sydney in 2008 for World Youth Day and the great celebrations at Barangaroo in Darling Harbour. We saw his determination to decisively address the scandal of child sexual abuse as it has stained and humiliated the Church in our country.We heard of his private meeting in apology, bringing a listening heart to victims.
Pope Benedict has the sharp mind of surely one of the keenest thinkers and scholars of his era. We will remember him for his clear, profound but simple teaching of eternal truths, especially about the dignity of the human person and his strong warning against the dictatorship of relativism which takes over when people forget God.
Pope Benedict reached out in word and deed to unite Catholics. He has always wanted to draw back into to the central continuity of the Church’s lifepeople and groups who had strayed to the fringes.
He reached out to people of all faiths, to Jews, Muslims and Christians in war-torn Middle Eastern and African countries, and vigorously defended religious freedom.