A year ago today the Church and the world were left shocked after the initial announcement of Pope Benedict XVI to resign the Petrine Ministry due to advanced age. Cardinals have recounted how they stayed in the audience room replaying his words to make sure they correctly heard him. Media outlets held off on breaking the news for over an hour until confirmation was received from the Vatican press office. Reactions were strong, speculation was rife. Pope Benedict XVI had made one of the most radical Papal decisions in 600 years.
In his call for ‘The Year of Faith’, Benedict XVI spoke of throwing wide the doors of faith. In what can only be described as a courageous act of humility, Pope Benedict threw wide the doors for Pope Francis. In more recent history, candidates for the Papacy had tended to be mid to late sixties, thereby avoiding too brief a Papacy on the one hand,or one marked by ill health on the other. Pope Benedict was certainly aware of the strain on the governance of the Church at the time of the terminal illness of Pope John Paul II. This may have affected his decision to retire.
The Vatican Communications officer, Fr. Frederico Lomabardi, has reminded the church of the great debt owed to Pope Emeritus Benedict. Pope John Paul ll was called the Pope of Hope because of his courage in confronting Communism. Benedict XVI is most certainly the Pope of Faith because of his scholarly research and intellectual probing of the issues of Faith and Reason. In stepping aside, he has made way for Francis, the Pope of Charity. This wonderful cycle completing the trinity of the theological virtues and most definitely a sign that the Holy Spirit is working within the Church. Without Benedict we would not have had Francis.
The Pope Emeritus now resides at the Vatican, still working for the Church, through his prayers. Let us pray for both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis that the Lord will strengthen and sustain them. Let us also say to Pope Benedict ‘Thank You. You are always in our hearts’.