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.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
In the category of unexpected events, the resignation of a Pope is certainly among them. When Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, the accusations began to fly as to why he saw fit to be the first person to resign the Papacy since Pope Gregory XII, in 1415. It could be, as he declared in his announcement, that his declining health is the reason he is stepping down. Perhaps it is the accusations of his being complicit in protecting priests involved in child sex abuse throughout Europe and North America. Neither one is an unreasonable reason to step down, but of course those who are against the Catholic Church, (be it the “big C” or “little c,”) or more to the point, anti-theists in general, they will latch onto a story like this and use it as propaganda against the Church and Christianity. Either way, those inside the Church should take note of the events surrounding Benedict’s resignation, and take a moment to reflect on what this says about the state of, as he referred to in his announcement, today’s world, and what the Church should do about it.
One thing we can learn from Benedict is that sometimes we need to step back and examine ourselves, examine our spiritual lives and ministries, and evaluate whether or not we are the right person for the job. I’ve personally been doing that over the past few weeks when it comes to my own career, and that reflection has convinced me to pursue opportunities in youth ministry, the only ministry that commands exceptional hairstyles. Sometimes we’re called to unexpected places, and we have to be open to those possibilities.
You know, nothing stays the same forever. We like to think that we are protected, and that things will always turn out well for us, because that’s the way it’s always been. And thinking that way easy to do; it makes us feel comfortable. I think we can observe this attitude in the Church, especially when it comes to engrained traditions. Whether this is reflected the rigidity of the order of service, ratio of contemporary to traditional songs, or the type of Bible that is distributed among the pews, or in other areas of the church, such as Sunday School curriculum, it is necessary for us to be responsive to culture and the needs of our Christian communities while remaining true to our Biblical standards. For example, if you have been using the same Sunday school curriculum for twenty years, yet there is scant evidence of maturity in how we live, serve, and worship, then perhaps you need to find a new book.
Benedict knew it was time to bow out, but not everybody can recognize when it’s their time to go. William Faulkner taught that “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” The point is, when you get attached to something, an idea or a character, you may love it so much that you never recognize when it becomes stale, and in doing so you do a disservice to the plot, which never advances to its potential. There are a lot of stale darlings that are lingering about in our churches, and perhaps it’s time to do a little spring cleaning so that rather than advancing the plot, we’re advancing the Gospel to its potential.