Then I went to breakfast, and found out it was true. Both Trade Towers collapsed, but the Church can never collapse. Popes do resign from time to time, although the last one was too long ago for anyone to remember. We are tempted to think it is a bad time for a man like Pope Benedict to resign. An epic struggle for human identity is moving into high gear, and Benedict is the man who defined the stakes decades ago. But February 11, 2013, is a good day for the Pope to announce his resignation for two reasons. First, he announces his resignation for reasons of illness on the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Thus he stands in line with the world’s elderly infirm, moving aside so that the Lord may use a stronger instrument. Second, he resigns at this critical point in the culture wars, even though a man of lesser gifts may take his office. Thus he proclaims the indefectibility of the Church, and that he, Joseph Ratzinger, is only a humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard, after all. Those of us in the “Joseph Ratzinger Fan Club” are reminded that Christ can run his Church even without Joseph Ratzinger.
We may be tempted to think that Pope Benedict should see his duties through to the end, like Pope John Paul II. That would be a facile judgment. We cannot presume to know why and how Benedict made his decision. We can only trust that John Paul made the right decision to remain in the papacy, and that Benedict has made the right decision to resign the papacy. Let us simply devote ourselves to prayer as the cardinals gather for the conclave next month.
Click here for the full text of the Pope's declaration.