2-11-2013 JMT Commentary on Pope Benedict XVI's Resignation
I think history will smile on this. It’s historic. The last pope to resign did so 600 years ago, and to heal the schism between various claimants to the Chair of Peter through the election of a new person with a fresh start. This resignation has to do with age and health, and is a modern phenomenon. He is a conservative, but a modern Pope. This move was both humble, and courageous. There is no reason to suspect looming death, or moral scandal. He is simply advanced in years, and realizes that he cannot fulfill his office any more. That takes both humility and courage to admit. I applaud such honesty.
Pope Benedict XVI has made monumental progress on many fronts. He has made immense progress with internal reform in the face of sex scandals and confusion regarding faith and morality. He has spoken to bridge the divide between science and political morality with a gentle precision that is awesome. He has reached out ecumenically and in interfaith relations. He has brought down many barriers between Catholic Christians, and those of Judaism and Islam. He has reached out courageously to those of the Eastern Churches. He has instituted the Anglican Ordinariate for Episcopal and Anglicans who want to enter into full communion with Rome, and has more recently instituted something similar with Lutherans. He is on record saying that Christian unity will unfold, not by trying to impose our church structure or style onto others, but by all of us getting on our knees together before Jesus, and letting Jesus surprise all of us. This is a stunning and historic papal statement.
His style is much different than that of Pope John Paul II. Some have said succinctly that if John Paul II had not been a priest he would have been an actor, and if Benedict XVI had not been a priest he would have been a college professor! That pretty much says it.
The clergy loves Benedict XVI as a keen and respectful listener to all points of view, and always finding common ground with those who differ with him. He is famous for being soft-spoken before everyone. That respect speaks volumes!
I have read almost everything he has written. He usually writes his books, not as the Pope, but as a private theologian. I do not always agree with him on minor matters, but I find his scholarship stunning and profound, and agree with most everything he writes about. He is a theological force that is heads and shoulders above most voices, but one that is clearly conservative of the ancient tradition of the Church in a way that is appropriate and healthy. That balance is not easy to maintain. He has spoken to modern issues with the apostolic tradition of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now we pray for Pope Benedict XVI as he enters into a well deserved retirement. We also pray with the College of Cardinals as they open themselves to the Spirit in choosing a new Bishop of Rome. Thank you Pope Benedict XVI for your years of selfless service, and thank you Jesus for the new Pope.
John Michael Talbot