Too Pooped to Pope?

by Jonathan Geissler

Is Pope Benedict too pooped to be pope?

The world was in shock on Monday, February 11th by the publication of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter of resignation. The 85-year-old pontiff said in his statement that he is resigning in “full freedom,” and that he has noticed a deterioration of his strength “to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.” In resigning, he has become the first pope since the Middle Ages to take such a step.

Many have questioned the reasoning behind Pope Benedict’s decision. There have been a number of conflicting reports in the media, citing unsubstantiated “scandals” in an ostensive attempt to stir up controversy.

But his decision is much simpler than that. Pope Benedict feels that because of his own infirmaries, he is no longer fit to fulfill the duties and obligations required by the Petrine ministry.

“I was intrigued,” said Alexander LaPoint, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry. “After reading his resignation letter, it was clear the pope made this decision after a great deal of discernment, reflection, and prayer. It ultimately shows a great deal of humility and courage.”

It is important to note that Benedict, when known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was a close confidant of Pope John Paul II. He witnessed firsthand his good friend and the head of the Catholic Church physically waste away. Given Pope Benedict’s declining health, it is understandable that he did not want to follow down this path for the sake of the Church and its faithfuls.

“Pope Benedict can be seen as teaching us a way of understanding humble service,” said Brother Nicholas Blackwell, O.Carm., a visitor to Mount Saint Mary College studying under Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, Father Francis Amodio. “He is both the suffering servant and the humble servant. He’s teaching us that we are the things that we do, and it should be respected that he is pulling back for the sake of his own service that he loves, so as to allow others to rise.”

While it is not easy to break a six-hundred-year tradition within the Catholic Church, an organization that holds tradition in such high esteem, Pope Benedict’s decision is consistent with his character. Throughout his tenure as bishop and pope, he has provided instruction, discipline, and he has ultimately put himself aside for the good of the Church and its people. He has remained faithful and true to his vocation. His reasons for resigning emerge from a strong and faithful belief in what the papal office truly is. The papacy is not a mere person, but a sacred office entrusted by the Church. It is not exercised for a man, or for cardinals, bishops, and priests, or even for Catholics alone. Rather, it is a ministry exercised for all those who seek God–a demanding office to say the least.

The impact of Benedict’s decision is manifold. In a fast-paced world and as the leader of over one billion Catholics, he realized that he must have the stamina to deal with spiritual matters on a global scale. He has set before our eyes a true sense of reverence, duty, and responsibility. His resignation instills in us all that leadership, even while exercised by a person, is not about that person.

Pope Benedict XVI was not only a great leader and head of the Church; he is an example to mankind.