I write at 2:43 p.m. local time or 8:43 p.m. in Rome (on February 28th). That means Pope Benedict XVI resignation went into effect 43 minutes ago. It was not a simple decision for him to retire, especially since there is no retirement provision for popes. That’s why all the headlines say he resigned. Our bishops are required by Canon Law to submit letters of resignation for retirement when they turn 75. Bishops used to serve until death but that was changed in the 1960’s. Pope Benedict XVI was already above that age when he was elected pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II. While Pope Benedict’s time as pope was less than a third of Pope John Paul II’s time, Pope Benedict was faithful in his service to the church. He decided to retire because of his diminished abilities due to age. He did this so that our church might have a new pope with the energy to fulfill all that is required of him. As such, I see his resignation as a noble act and pray that his remaining years on Earth be a time of peace and prayer in God’s love.
Now, for the first time in 600 years, our church is without a pope for a reason other than death. While an exact day has not been set for the conclave to elect a new pope to begin, we expect it to be relatively soon. When a pope dies, there is normally a time of grieving but since Pope Benedict XVI is not dead, there is no need for grieving in that same sense. There are plenty of news stories speculating on who will become the new pope. I do not know and I do not care to speculate. I simply pray that the one God is calling to be pope is the one elected and that he lead not by his own will but in accord with God’s Will.