When Pope Benedict XVI announced his unanticipated resignation, the world was taken unaware, and in less than two weeks, the pontiff has re-written history, has gone leaving legacies as well as lots to be done for the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics are still left with mixed feelings as millions are yet to come to terms with the sudden step down of a man of high reverend and celestial authority across the globe. Surprisingly, they were also Christians even at St Peter’s Square who wanted to see the pope turn his back for the last time, heaping blames on him for the crises that have rocked the roots of the church and even Christians’ faith in recent years.
There is no point now trying to harp on why he decided to abdicate, end his papacy physically and not by the natural cause of death in the first place. Whether it was actually his frail health and advance age or the plethora of sex sagas and child abuses or the internal tiff and division within the church over gay priests and female priests, there is no need turning back the pages. The pope is gone and what should be the worry of the people at Vatican at the moment is who is going to step on the hot seat. Who is the next captain to continue steering the ship before it hits the iceberg; starts to take in water and eventually sinks? The cardinals would have a very busy time at the conclave trying to pray and ask God to guide them elect the right person who will have the physical and mental strength and audacity to cruise against tidal waves and keep the church on track. Catholic faithful the worldwide would equally have to burn the candle at both ends praying for a new, spiritual leader. While the church is currently observing the interregnum – the period between popes – the cardinals at the conclave are expected to elect a new pope by Easter.
Adieu our pope emeritus
Apart from having led the church since 2005, when his predecessor, Pope John Paul II passed away, Pope Benedict now with the new title of Pope Emeritus must be praised for his courage to make way, when the going gets tough. He might not be directly responsible for all or most of the quagmires that had bewitched the church under his papacy, but as the head of the church he had to assume the responsibility. If uneasy lies a head that wears the crown, then the pope might have found it unbearable and decided to quit before the debacle becomes a quake. However, the Holy See equally left his legacies behind.
According to a report published in the Catholic Herald of I5 February, there are ten reasons to why Pope Benedict’s papacy stood out. First is his steadfastness, which was remarkable in 2010, when there was a concerted media effort to force his resignation under the cover of the clerical abuse crisis, but he never bent to that pressure. Another legacy of the pope was his teaching which were crystal clear. He left his followers with a rich body of teaching, contained not only in his homilies, encyclical and trilogy of books on Christ Jesus, but also in his actions. He reformed the liturgy and also introduced the programme of purification within the church. Pope Benedict is said to have attempted to purify the church of corruption. His outreach to Islam was also a praiseworthy initiative. The pope was observed not to have shrink when his Regensburg lecture was violently misunderstood in parts of the Islamic world. While apologising for unintended offence, Pope Benedict stood by his address, which called for an alliance between Catholics and Muslims in this secular age. Overall, he is known to have strengthened Catholic-Islamic dialogue more than his predecessor.
Pope Benedict also created an ordinariate for group of former Anglicans. This new structure brought together thousands of souls into full communion, without irreparably harming relationship between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. The pope also had strong love for Britain; was very brave; strived for balance within the church, and has a stupendous humility. For humility, it has been disclosed that it is hard within the church for men to renounce power and status. Pope Benedict would be remembered to have shown remarkable humility in scarifying his own papal ministry for what he believed is the greater good of the church.
The challenges facing the church would be passed on to the new pope who would have the utmost task to clean and put the house in order. He might struggle in the beginning, especially handling the pressure left by his predecessor, but with the help of God and the support of the whole church through prayers he would subsequently stand tall.