Who knew? Not many apparently beforehand, when Pope Benedict released the bombshell - his imminent retirement. The Catholic Church had made such a provision in its law: "If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone " (c. 332, 2). But few thought it likely. The beloved Pope John Paul II had soldiered through intense pain and suffering his final days to die as the Successor of Peter. Perhaps Pope Benedict, witnessing the final scene of John Paul's agonizing end and its impact on the Church, decided that abdication was best for the Church as he grasped the seriousness of his declining health.
Much about his papacy will be debated. But he has made many valuable contributions to the Church as a scholar and student. Lent might be a good time to read and reflect on one of his three recent works on Jesus Christ and then to thank God for the gift of his insights and relationship with the Lord which he shared generously.
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