This morning, the world is in a state of a shock with the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will resign effective February 28. It is the first papal resignation, of any kind, for almost 600 years. Pope Benedict’s resignation was due to his health. At 85, Benedict felt that he could not longer effectively serve.
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 an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, 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 Saint 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.
I have a lot of respect for Benedict’s decision. His decision to resign is honorable. Benedict prayerfully made the hard and difficult decision to step aside, recognizing his own frailty and the demands of ministry.
The demands of daily ministry are intense and requires a pastor to be in their best health. There is much that goes on behind the scenes of Sunday morning that requires a pastor’s entire physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. The demands are increasingly more so for the person who occupies the papacy. That person is responsible not only for the demands of ministry, but for the administrative task of leading 1 billion people and being a key political leader in the world.
It is not an easy job to be a pastor. It is not an easy job to be a pope.
Benedict’s resignation is not from his calling. He is not resigning from his primary call to be a follower of Christ nor his vocational call to be a minister in service to the Lord. Benedict is simply stepping away from one avenue of living into that ministry. There will be other opportunities for him, I am sure, to serve the Lord through his gifts, talents, service, and presence.
I applaud him for that and hope it provides guidance for others. When the demands of ministry becomes too much for us to handle on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level, we owe it to the church and ourselves to prayerfully consider other avenues of ministry. It is not a failure. It is a recognition that God can use us in many ways. Our talents can be used to serve the church and proclaim the Gospel in other avenues that are less demanding.
Today, my prayers are with our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church as well as for Pope Benedict. This is an important time for the church, and much will be said about the future direction of the papacy. For today, I simply want to give thanks for Pope Benedict’s leadership and his willingness to step aside when his health became a concern.
I have a lot of respect for him today.