Today is the final morning that Pope Benedict XVI can call himself Pope. It’s an historic occasion. The papacy is one of the few positions in the world that is started at retirement age, then held until you die. Literally. The networks have spent most of the morning covering the Pope’s departure from the papal palace, trying to generate excitement. Only a few thousand people stood outside to watch him leave. No matter how much the media try to push it, there is a singular lack of enthusiasm about this “incredible, historic moment”.
However, when Benedict was elected Pope, it was understood that it was for 2 reasons:(1)he was already elderly–and not likely to last long, and he was a stopgap to allow the college of cardinals time to find a younger, and more acceptable candidate(2)he was as conservative as the last pope. To everyone’s surprise, he has lasted eight years–yet the cardinals have not used that time to seriously search for a replacement. I watched the Christmas Midnight Mass from the Vatican broadcast this year, and the poor guy was clearly down for the count. He would wake up to speak but the rest of the time he seemed to be sound asleep. Pope Benedict clearly doesn’t want the church to go months without a leader, and wants events to move forward, whether the cardinals want to or not.
I’m sure he’s told them repeatedly in past years that he’s had enough. He announced–both in through the media and in social media–that he’s leaving. Now nobody can say he didn’t give fair warning, and the cardinals must step up to the plate. Rest assured, they will probably nag him for his opinions, but he can relax because the pressure to perform and act vital is finally off.
The church has made bad mistakes in the past three decades, and they can no longer bury their heads in the sand and ignore them. They have destroyed their workhorses–the communities of sisters who are the ground level representatives of the church; and allowed abuses to go unacknowledged and unpunished, while alienating as many of the faithful as possible.
I won’t even address the state of the music, except to say that as a singer much of what I’ve heard is so bad that I can’t bear to attend mass–it honestly hurts me to listen to it.
Pope Benedict has earned his retirement (however long that may last; I won’t lay bets it is very long), and I hope he enjoys his time of peace. I don’t envy whoever replaces him. They have a tough road ahead.