Since it’s the first time it has happened in 600 years, we can safely say that no one saw this one coming.
But today Pope Benedict resigned citing old age. He said his human strength and deteriorated "to the extent that I have to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me".
Wow. It’s a remarkable statement and a break from tradition, which has popes dying in office. And, if this old Anglican may be allowed to say, it’s a good thing. From a leadership standpoint and from a theological standpoint, it prevents those awkardly long periods in which others actually run the Vatican while the Pope is incapacitated.
Anyhow, for those of you wondering, the last time a pope resigned was 600 years ago when Pope Gregory II stepped down during a time in which there were actually three people claiming to be the rightful pope.
And, what happens to the pope after this. Well, we are told that Pope Benedict will go to live at one of the summer palaces for a while, then when he wants to he’ll return to the Vatican and live out his days.
It’s groundbreaking and interesting stuff. From a history standpoint, Pope Benedict XVI had his work cut out for him. He followed the most popular pope — John Paul II — to come along in centuries. My guess is that Benedict will be remembered well, but mostly for the grace of his resignation.
P.S. In the great minds category, allow me to direct you to this blog by Peggy Noonan on the pope’s resignation.