I will confess to having been shaken when I saw the news yesterday that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was going to resign from his position as Supreme Pontiff at the end of this month. It is a momentous occasion when a new Pope is to be chosen and, for several hundred years, has been caused only by the death of the preceding Pontiff.
John Paul II, of blessed memory, decided to carry his burden to the end of his life, even though, as the years passed, he was a physical shadow of the vibrant figure who stepped onto the balcony of St Peter’s in 1978. The contrast between the vigorous ski-ing, footballing Pope, and that of the hunched and mumbling figure as his end neared was stark, but His Holiness, guided by the Holy Spirit, wanted to show how service to God can come from anyone, no matter their state of health.
When Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, was chosen to succeed the first Polish Pope, he was already a man rich in years, one of the oldest to follow in the shoes of St Peter. Continue reading