Along with I suppose everyone else I reacted to the announcement with shock. It was a little past seven of Monday evening, I was alone in the dining table, when the local news program broke the story.
"What? What? No!" I cried out several times. Enough to alarm my wife who rushed in.
"What happened? Why were you shouting?" she asked.
Me: "Pope Benedict just resigned?"
My wife: "What? What? No!"
Certainly no one saw this coming. Because our past experience tells us that popes do not resign, that it's a position of responsibility that they hold to the day God calls them from this earth. Because B16 (as he's known on Twitter), although showing signs of age, still looks to be in good health.
But apparently a pope can resign, that there is precedent for the act, but this is only the sixth time in history that it's happened. The news sent us all scurrying to Wikipedia to find out that the last papal resignation happened over 600 years ago.
After the shock came sadness, at least that's how I felt. There's so much apathy and even enmity for the Catholic Church now that I'm not sure what other reactions followed from the initial incredulity. For me: sadness because...just because. Perhaps I had come to appreciate the weariness that I could, in hindsight, see in B16's eyes.
But that sadness soon gave way to acceptance and even hope. Again, I don't know why. Perhaps because as a believer, I feel the essence of the Catholic Church remains unchanged, that Pope Benedict XVI in his term has stayed the course true. Certainly because even now, I believe this falls within the movement and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Pope Benedict XVI wasn't the rock star that his predecessor Blessed John Paul II was. What he lacked in charisma he made up for in intellect and in an intense focus on the person of Jesus Christ and on the relevance of Jesus' message in the modern world. Pope Benedict was calm, measured, and thoughtful. Long after he passes, his legacy will be his theology of Jesus Christ.
In the aftermath of his announcement, the secular press has, of course, taken to an analysis of the papacy under Benedict XVI. Some have called it a failure, in large part because the Pope failed to resolve the sex scandals in the Church that have only come to light.
There is rot in the Church and it does need to be addressed, and I think it's in recognition of this that Pope Benedict is giving way. The challenges for the papacy are daunting and will require a younger and more energetic Pope.
Pope Benedict has already paved the way for this movement. In his term, he's appointed 67 cardinals, 22 of them within the past year alone, and six of them from developing countries, including our own Cardinal Tagle. The rest, of course, will be up to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
In the meantime, nothing more to say except: "Grazie, Papa."