Catholics look beyond Benedict
Gretchen Burns | managing editor
On Monday, Feb. 11, the Roman Catholic Church confronted a dilemma that it hasn’t faced in over 700 years; the resignation of the Holy Father.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke a small amount of Latin, leaving the Church to replace him before Easter, claiming that he no longer had the strength of mind and his body had diminished to the point that he could not carry on his duties.
Megan Schenk admires Benedict for his decision.
“I think it’s really unfortunate, but necessary. The demands of the position have changed a lot in 2000 years, and the pope needs to be in good enough health to do a lot of traveling,” said Schenk, senior in psychology. “I admire him for his humility in being able to admit that he’s not supporting the Church in the way it needs to be.”
Ray Nolla was surprised at the announcement, but felt that it took courage for the pope to step down from his position.
“I think it was shocking,” said Nolla, junior in justice studies. “But my grandmother used to say that Pope John Paul II stayed in office to show us humility even though he was in great pain. I think Pope Benedict XVI resigning, it shows a life of courage, even though it is hard.”
This bombshell was kept secret until a routine meeting with Vatican cardinals. These cardinals, and others around from the world, will congregate together to elect Benedict’s successor, the 266th Roman Catholic Pope.
The College of Cardinals, the chosen cardinals who will elect the successor, are on a much faster route to electing a new pope, because the traditional nine days of mourning that follows a pope’s death do not have to be observed. Since the current pope did not die, it gives the 85-year-old pontiff great sway in the choice, though he himself will not vote.
One new aspect that cardinals will have to consider is that candidates may not feel compelled to stay for life.
“For the century to come, I think that none of Benedict’s successors will feel morally obliged to remain until their death,” said Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois.
In 2010, the pope stated that a pontiff should consider resigning if he gets too old or is unable to do the job.
Benedict was a top aide of Pope John Paul II and watched as the former pope suffered through Parkinson’s disease and was unable to complete his papal duties until his death in 2005. Obviously, Benedict XVI wants to avoid the same fate as he grows older.
After stepping down, the Vatican has stated that Benedict will live with a congregation of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican, although he will be able to come and go freely.
The Vatican is unsure of how to watch the pope after he steps down, since the times have changed since the previous one.
Pope Benedict XVI has been a highly conservative pope for the Catholic Church. He tried to reawaken Christianity in Europe where it had decreased and tried to return the church to its traditional roots.
At the moment, there are no obvious choices for the College of Cardinals to elect as the new pope, but there are several papal contenders. This is the same situation as when Pope John Paul II died and Benedict was elected.
There has been a push for the next pope to hail from a Third World area. Several names have emerged from Asia, Africa and Latin America, home to about 40 percent of the world’s Catholics.
Benedict stated that his resignation was not to escape a particular burden, such as the sex abuse scandals, saying that even when the danger is great, it doesn’t do for one to run away, but rather to stand fast and endure the situation.
Benedict stressed that for him to carry out the duties of being pope, “both strength of mind and body are necessary—strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me.”
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited,” to the demands of the being the pope, he told the cardinals during the meeting.
“If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign,” said Benedict, in his 2010 book “Light of the World.”