Pope Benedict XVI

The dreadful day when our beloved Pope Benedict XVI resigned

I remember that dreadful day quite well. It was just about lunch time, just before noon, and I tuned into the Catholic Herald's website, looking for the latest news in the Catholic world - and there it was "Pope Benedict XVI resigns" or something like it. At first I thought it was a bad joke, but I was in no mood to simply shrug it off. So I visited Radio Vaticana's website, and found confirmation of the fact. My dearly beloved Pope Benedict XVI had resigned.

I was working with a colleague who was Catholic. He used to take a daily lunchtime stroll and I told him that I really needed some fresh air. Once outside, I told him that Pope Benedict XVI had resigned. He had to check his phone for confirmation, but by that time the news had spread - "this is historic!", was his reaction. He was under the impression that Pope Benedict must have been very sick for this to happen and he felt certain that the Holy Spirit would not allow the Church to have a bad Pope, not when there is so much confusion, not when there is such a strong need for the Church and her wise leadership. I did not say so at the time, but I was more alarmed than he was. To me, it felt certain that this was the last chance of the modernists to install one of their own as Pope, but I was still in shock. Some part of me wanted to believe that the Pope was really sick and that he had to resign, but I found myself realising just what an evil thought that was: Could I not just wish Pope Benedict a peaceful retirement, and take him at face value when he said that he did not have the powers needed for his role?

On and on it went, and I lept from one Catholic news outlet to the next, seeking reactions, wondering what might come, wondering why this had happened. One thing I was sure about though: Pope Benedict always put the Church first, and if he resigned then he must have had good reason to do so. I also thought to myself "If there is anybody who has earned the right to a peaceful life, it surely is Pope Benedict."

The next few weeks saw a lot of speculation as to why Pope Benedict had resigned, most of which I ignored, some of which was very vicious. I had simply chosen to take Pope Benedict's words at face value: He felt he should resign for the good of the Church, and if he had so much faith in the Church to elect a good successor then maybe I owed it to him to do likewise. We had many articles and comments which insisted that we have nothing to worry about since the Holy Spirit picks the Pope. This is, of course, not what the Church teaches, nor will it ever teach that - not least because we have a decent list of less than admirable popes. To the faithful and unlearned - who are at least obedient enough to believe the Church is holy, but uniformed enough to know what the Church actually teaches - this was an admirable response. However, it is so dangerous that it even prompted one writer to title an article "Cut the Papa-Bull", which I felt was right on point. The heretics and lukewarm 'Catholics' were of course rejoicing because they were hoping for someone who would come and undo all the good that Pope Benedict had done.

Over the coming weeks I prayed for Pope Benedict more than I had ever done before. I wanted to pray to God and petition Him to get Pope Benedict to change his mind, but I resited the urge. Rather, I prayed that Pope Benedict would lead us wisely during what little time he had left as Pope, and that the cardinals would elect a wise person to succeed him, and that he would have the peace of mind he had so earnestly earned during the course of a life spent in service of the Church.

When I saw his last pictures as Pope - not live - I felt a deep sense of sorrow come over me. I also felt as though I had betrayed him. I had long wished that Pope Benedict would be Pope for a long time - at least 10-15 years and I had always been worried that he would be tough to replace. The fact that the Church has replaced Popes for close to 2,000 years calmed me a bit, yet I knew that the Church was sailing in some of the fiercest waves that she had ever encountered, and we had lost just about the most steady captain available on God's good Earth, and not due to a natural calamity either. I felt as though I had betrayed Pope Benedict because I had not prayed for him as much as I should have done previously, how sad it was that I was praying for him more towards the end of his pontificate than I had done over all the previous time. I felt as though I had let him down by not defending the Church more forcefully, by not proclaiming the LORD more joyously and fervently. I was determined to keep Pope Benedict in my prayers for the rest of his Earthly life, and I am happy that I have been able to do that.

A few months previously I had had a dream in which I was assigned to guard Pope Benedict only to see him assassinated right in front of my very eyes. That dream all of a sudden seemed very real, and glad as I was that the Pope was still alive, I felt I still felt a sense of deep sorrow that I would never again look forward to hearing from that humble God-loving man.

As I...


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