The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI during a meeting of Vatican Cardinals that he will resign on Feb. 28 — the first pope to do so in nearly six centuries — has sent shock waves around the globe. The shock starts within the Vatican itself despite the resignation being made in accordance with the Code of Canon Law, which provides for a pope’s resignation when made freely and manifested properly.
The enduring sentiment is bittersweet for millions of Catholics worldwide. We are saddened by the Pope’s announcement because we’re aware of all of the good he has accomplished during his short eight-year papacy. He is an absolutely brilliant theologian and philosopher who was both conservative in his defense of our church’s teachings and traditions, and extremely progressive and practical in his decision-making and his view of the church’s role in the new evangelization.
He openly and aggressively addressed and dealt with the sex abuse scandals, he effectively revamped the Vatican from the inside, and he renewed the church’s identity as a missionary.
As Catholics, we are proud of the Holy Father’s actions and admire the underlying message behind his announcement.
The Supreme Pontiff’s announcement should serve as an example of detachment and love, responsibility and respect for positions of authority to the world’s leaders. The quest for power and control often clouds a leader’s judgment making it difficult to step down when physical limitations impede one’s ability to effectively carry out the duties entrusted to them. The Pope’s objectivity and genuine respect for his position as leader of more than one billion Catholics worldwide is evident in the eloquence of his own words:
“In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom, I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter.”
We should all be so dignified.
Manny García-Tuñón, spokesman, Catholic Association of Latino Leaders, Miami