It is with absolute surprise and a pang of sadness that we heard the news of the forthcoming resignation of our beloved Holy Father.
Posted Feb. 22, 2013
Fr. Biju Chittech
It is with absolute surprise and a pang of sadness that we heard the news of the forthcoming resignation of our beloved Holy Father. Pope Benedict XVI is a profoundly spiritual and holy man, nourished by an unshakable faith and brilliant theological shrewdness. He is courageous, yet gentle; a brilliant academic, yet so humble, with solid ethical and spiritual grounding. The reasons Benedict XVI gave for his decision reflect the pope’s humility and greatness.
The first resignation of a pope was in 235. Pope St. Pontian was arrested and sent to labor in the mines of Sardinia. Pontian was arrested by Roman officials at the instigation of the persecution of the Church by Emperor Maximinus I Thrax. To prevent the Church of Rome from being headless, he laid down his office to allow a successor to be named.
St. Peter Celestine is the most famous. His election ended a three year conclave, but he was an unworldly hermit, known for his holiness. He proved inept at the high-stakes political world of the Roman curia. He announced to a consistory of cardinals in 1294 that he was freely resigning the papacy. His successor Boniface VIII made that declaration official Church law in 1298. In 1415 Gregory XII resigned the papacy (the last to do so), on the condition that the Council of Constance accept his authority to elect a successor.
Benedict XVI, is an intellectual, a brilliant thinker, and above all a contemplative. “In announcing his resignation Benedict XVI says, he is doing so with full freedom.’ This total surrender to the will of the Father is a sign of his faith. The Year of Faith, which he opened in October, and now his resignation, are powerful testimonies to the faith of the Holy Father and the steadiness of his life, his prayer and his ministry. ”
It is very rare for a pope to resign, because most popes have felt that this was a charge directly from God and felt compelled to remain in the office until death. If a pope is convinced through prayer that he may hinder the Church’s mission then, like Celestine V, Gregory XII, and Benedict they may lay down their office. The Holy Spirit guides the Church in all such matters.