I don’t know what else to say. I was just getting ready to turn in for the night, had just emailed my fellow Station 15 podcasters with a list of stories for us to discuss on this month’s show, and then BOOM!!!! First the conjecture, then the confirmation that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of this month, citing poor health. Here’s the full statement from the Vatican, courtesy of the Catholic Herald (because the Vatican site has crashed):
Dear Brothers (Cardinals),
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, 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 Saint 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 Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
Three days into my career covering the Catholic Church as a journalist, Pope John Paul II died. About two weeks after that, Pope Benedict was elected as his great friend’s successor, and he has defied his critics — of which there were many — since the day he was introduced to the world following those famous words, Habemus Papam.
And today, he once again blows conventional wisdom out the door by resigning, as he said he would if he felt he was no longer able to carry out his duties effectively. It is going to be a crazy few weeks.
It is a bittersweet moment for me. I’ve loved watching Pope Benedict’s pontificate unfold, and think he has done a wonderful job overall. There have been a few hiccups along the way, and the media spotlight has certainly highlighted them, but I think Benedict will be remembered very fondly when we look back.
There are so many things that we can’t predict, given the unprecedented nature of what’s unfolding at the Vatican. But things will quickly become clearer, I’m sure, and we’ll start the process of speculating over who the next Pope will be.
And now that I’m in Australia, I’ll be seeing Cardinal George Pell’s name more often than I’d ever thought possible.