Like most people, I was taken by surprise this morning when word of Pope Benedict’s resignation at the end of February was announced, seemingly for health reasons. I can only admire the work our German Shepherd has done over the past eight years, especially in light of the fact that he’d hoped to retire to a quiet life prior to being elevated to the papacy. He put the needs of the Church ahead of his own and deserves our thanks and praise and prayers.
Perhaps the decision shouldn’t come as a complete shock. Last year I interviewed author Jon M. Sweeney who wrote a book called “The Pope Who Quit,” about Pope Celestine V, the last Pope who resigned from the position.
During the interview, I asked Jon how the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy lead to renewed interest in Pope Celestine V and connected him to Pope Benedict XVI.
Jon responded, “The earthquake was centered in Celestine V’s hometown where he was crowned Pope in 1294. The roof of the Basilica in which his body is buried caved in because of the earthquake. So Pope Benedict XVI traveled to that part of Italy after the earthquake on a pastoral visit to see the people because they were in really dire straits. But then he also came back later and went to the tomb of Celestine V and had a private moment there that people found a little bit interesting and confusing, where he seemed to identify his papacy in a way with this singular Pope in history who quit.”
For more information and reflections on the resignation by my fellow Patheos bloggers, you can check out Deacon Greg’s and Frank Weathers’ and Elizabeth Scalia’s posts. You should also keep checking back to the Patheos Catholic Channel, where I’m sure many bloggers will be weighing in.