In my opinion, this resignation or retirement of an aged and ailing man who is our Pope is a very positive modern precedent. Just in the last hundred years, the lifespan of people in western countries has increased dramatically as a result of better diets, the availability of food, and better health care.
However, life longevity has not removed the infirmities caused by aging. We discovered over the last few days that Pope Benedict had a pacemaker. So, it helped keep him alive and active but it did not remove other ailments of aging alone and the normal fatiguing.
For a normal healthy person, the position of the Pope involves a great deal of activity in performing normal pastoral duties as the head of the Church as well as the administrative duties which involve papal appointments and diplomatic duties and the overseeing of the Vatican and functioning as the spiritual leader of over a billion Catholics. And, I am sure that what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. He, also, must study and prepare messages to his flock and to lead the clergy not to mention the study and drafting of encyclicals. The duties are almost overwhelming even with all the staff that he has at his disposal.
The Church, like many governments and businesses, puts age limits on officer holders. For example, bishops must resign at age 75 and cardinals who are 80 and older are not allowed to participate in the conclave to vote for popes. We watched Pope John Paul the Great go from a very young and energetic pope to an invalid who suffered greatly before his death. What view of him do we remember - I like to remember his energetic early papacy rather than his last several years. But, I am old enough to remember his election. Tens of millions of Catholics did not know him in his early years. He made the choice to die in office and we all learned a great deal about prayerful suffering. However, I certainly would have welcomed his retirement to enjoy in peace the last days of his life without all the stresses of that position.
Pope Benedict wrote a couple of years ago that he would resign the position if he could not continue to carry out his duties as a result of ill health. In that writing, then, he stated his intention but it was not given widespread coverage at that point as no one, apparently, thought it would happen. Keep in mind that his predecessor died at age 84 and he is now 85
Leadership often requires making different and controversial decisions. I think it is refreshing for this pope to recognize his human frailties and to retire due to his declining health. He is a very cerebral and holy man and this time of retirement will allow him more time to pray, reflect, discern, study and write. He has written so much that is beneficial so we will enriched all the more from additional writings from him.
Now, you know what I think and I would very much like to know what you think about this whether or not popes should resign..
Let the light of our Lord shine upon you!
REM (Ray Makowski) Co-Founder, Director and Secretary-Treasurer