The headlines were glaring, “The Pope is Resigning.” I have to admit that when I say the headline yesterday morning I was shocked. I thought ‘what’s wrong?’ It turns out that nothing is wrong. Pope Benedict XVI is 85 years old. His health is declining and has decided in the best interest of the Church to resign. You can read the story of his resignation at http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1300560.htm.
I agree with the statement of our Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Cunningham, who described Pope Benedict’s resignation as one of courage. This could not have been an easy decision for Pope Benedict. It has been 600 years since a pope has resigned. Pope Benedict has served the Church faithfully for many years, most recently as pope, but also as cardinal, bishop, priest, and teacher. May he know the peace of Christ always and find rest in “retirement.”
Of course, this leaves us all wondering about the future. What happens now? For stories about the election of a new pope check out http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1300575.htm. It is natural curiosity to wonder what happens now. It was just 8 years ago when Pope John Paul II died but people might ask will the process be different now since Pope Benedict is still alive? The answer is generally no. I say generally because with the death of a pope, there is the funeral and period of mourning that will not happen in this case.
What does amaze me but not surprise me, giving human nature, is that people immediately began speculating on who the next pope will be. Again, part of this is natural curiosity. Part of it is legitimate concern for the future. Unfortunately, part of it is not much better than gossip.
Who do I think will be the new pope? Well, it will probably be a cardinal. Beyond that, I don’t know and it is not for me to decide. What is for and for all of us is to pray that the person God is calling to be the next pope be the one elected. It doesn’t matter what I want the new pope to say or do. It doesn’t matter what you want the new pope to say or do. God is the one who knows best. God is the one who should be in control (and is). Remember the words from the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Will Be Done.”
Let us pray for Pope Benedict XVI as he steps aside and for the selection of the new pope be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that the person elected be the one God is calling.