Those of us in Rome were no less stunned than the rest of the world by the Pope’s announcement yesterday. Nobody saw it coming! It was, therefore, a cruel coincidence that “Can a Pope Ever Resign?” was published on this website only a few weeks ago.
There are already some in the media who’ve been declaring dramatically, “We are in unchartered waters!” But such a statement is misleading. While it’s true that no Pope has resigned for many centuries, the fact remains that clear legal procedures to handle this situation are already in place. The Catholic hierarchy knows exactly what it has to do to ensure the continuity of church leadership, by selecting (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit) a new Vicar of Christ. Questions like, “How do you address a former Pope?” and “Where will he live?” may be worth asking, but these matters will not affect the actual governance of the Church, which is of course the key issue. In short, everyone is shocked and saddened by the situation—but it does not constitute a crisis.
A column was already prepared for publication on this site on Thursday (February 14, 2013), and it will be posted as scheduled. But rest assured, the following column will address the legal procedures surrounding a papal conclave!
In the meantime, let’s keep praying for Pope Benedict XVI, who undoubtedly has the hardest job on earth.