He came to a point that he must come forward to his entire flock, entrusted to him with the command "feed my sheep, feed my lambs" that he cannot bear the responsibility anymore. He needed to do that while he presents himself to the whole world that he is physically and mentally stable and capable to make such an unprecedented decision.
It was a decision that he must make for "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 fulfil the ministry entrusted to me."
He knew when to give up, and knew when to think of the good of the Church instead of what people might think of him.
He has alluded to this countless of times in the past and most notably in his 2010 book "light of the World where he wrote:
"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."Others surely were against the decision, like long-time personal secretary of Bl. John Paul II, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz who said in reaction to the resignation:
Pope Wojtyla decided not to step down from the Throne of Peter even as he neared the end of his life because “he was convinced that one doesn’t come down from the cross.”
But Joseph Ratzinger was there during the final months of the life of John Paul II. Just by looking at John Paul, it was extremely impossible for him physically to continue with his task of steering the Bark of Peter. He was physically incapacitated and I am pretty sure Joseph Ratzinger, who was a very close collaborator of John Paul ever since they knew each other first during the Second Vatican Council, Wojtyla as a Council Father and Ratzinger as a periti, and during the 2 Conclaves of 1978.
If Cardinal Dziwisz knew what John Paul went through, certainly Ratzinger knew it too especially how the Curia was running during the final days of John Paul II. This might have left an impression on Cardinal Ratzinger who in an interview revealed that as his name was being read during the Conclave of 2005, and knowing his impending election to the Chair of Peter was imminent, prayed silently, that he be allowed to retire quietly and be spared of the ministry.
The Holy Father assured us that his decision was made out of a "repeated examination of conscience", and that we must trust him on this decision just as we trusted all him in all his decisions in the past.
Perhaps, all of us Catholics, will take this opportunity to stop and pray for our Holy Father, the Cardinal electors and for the whole Church that we may be guided, just as the Holy Spirit has done since Christ told Peter "...upon this Rock..." in the continuing journey of the Bark of St. Peter.
And from all the things I have read this past hours, none became so poignant and encapsulates the deep impression and legacy Benedict leaves to the world as pope, than this tribute from a Baptist:
Since assuming the papacy, Benedict has called for a counter-witness to the bloody persecution of Christians by Islamic authoritarian regimes in Africa and the Middle East, to the church-outlawing police states of China and North Korea, and to the soul-decaying secularism of Western Europe and, increasingly, the United States of America.
Benedict has countered the sexual revolution with an Augustinian view of the meaning of human personhood. A human person, he has reminded the world, is not a machine. We are not merely collections of nerve endings that spark with sensation when rubbed together. Instead a human person is directed toward a one-flesh union, which is personal and spiritual. Destroying the ecology of marriage and family isn’t simply about tearing down old “moralities,” he has reminded us, but about a revolt against the web of nature in which human beings thrive.
And Benedict has stood against the nihilism that defines human worth in terms of power and usefulness. He has constantly spoken for those whose lives are seen as a burden to society: the baby with Down syndrome, the woman with advanced Alzheimer’s, the child starving in the desert, the prisoner being tortured. These lives aren’t things, he has said, but images of God, and for them we will give an account. When society wants to dehumanize with language: “embryo,” “fetus,” “anchor baby,” “illegal alien,” “collateral damage,” and so on, Benedict has stood firmly to point to the human faces the world is seeking to wipe away.
As Protestant Christians, we will disagree with this pope, and with the next one, on all sorts of things. Here we stand, we can do no other; God help us. But let’s pray the next pope, like this one, will remember what it means to be human, and will remind the rest of us when we forget.He showed us what true ecumenism and Christian unity it is.
His beautiful encyclicals on the theological virtues is really worth reading over and over again. my personal favorite is Deus caritas est.
He showed us how to pray, and how to discover the sacred in the Liturgy! And that my dear TPC followers is the greatest impression he will leave on me as the Holy Father.
Let us learn from this historical moment...
Let us thank him, Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, for the years of his faithful stewardship of the Church, his example and most especially his writings may one day bring him to the penultimate honor of Catholic sainthood and "doctorhood", God willing.
And just as we continue to speculate and spread nasty rumors about a fake prophecy about who the next Pope will be, and online STUPIDITY OF EPIC PROPORTIONS about petitioning a certain cardinal to become the next pope, as if the papacy is a Reality Show Online Voting type, let us remember and be consoled by the following memes:
And take my advice...
Offer up your prayers and sacrifices for Pope Benedict XVI who will give up the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven due to health reasons, and that the Cardinal Electors heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
We should be praying than speculating!
God bless His Holy Church!
Well done, Holy Father!
Thank you for all you have done!
I will always affectionately call you "my Holy Father"