This morning the entire planet was shocked with the announcement the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI would resign from the Chair of Peter on February 28th.While this action has precedent, modern Catholicism has not experience the resignation of a Pope, usually considered a position terminated by physical death. However, Benedict's acknowledgement this morning of his own physical limitations does not diminish or detract from the man nor the Petrine ministry. Actually, the Holy Father's admission this morning illustrates a great sense of personal and spiritual integrity, deeply linked with the temporal and spiritual demands the position demands.
Joseph Ratzinger has faithfully without question served the needs of the Church as a priest, bishop, cardinal and finally as Pope Benedict XVI. He was one of the theological architects of the reforms of the second Vatican Council and progressively advocated the notion of theological and personal development as hallmarks as the People of God, on the journey towards eschatological union with God at the end of time. His resignation announcement encapsulates a theological career of progressive theology advocated by the and then Joseph Ratzinger during the Council and it's aftermath.
The papacy of the 21st century with Benedict's resignation is poised to take a new position on the world's political stage and an even more significant responsibility as the theological position of hope that spreads the Word of Christ's love globally, through technological methods of communications never envisioned even by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago. Blessed Pope John XXIII called for a spirit of aggiornamento when convening the II Vatican Council. Successive Popes from Paul VI through Benedict XVI have provided the foundational interpretation of the Council's explicit directives and correctly Benedict is entrusting the task of continuing the directives of the II Vatican Council to the generation of priests, bishops, cardinals and global Catholics that have lived through the gestational growing pains of an emerging modern Church, and are now ready to lead and guide the Church in a post-modern era complicated by technologies, methodologies that continue to diminish the role of the sacred in our secular lives. With his keen eye towards ensuring the future success of the Catholic Church as the People of God, his resignation should be celebrated as a theologically and pragmatically astute gesture from an exceptional theologian and Pope that knows the future of the Church and indeed the human race resides in vitality and renewal of principles of evangelization best implemented by those younger in age.
Benedict XVI throughout his papacy has provided a multitude of reforms for the world's Catholics that are really, "reforms of the reforms," that ran rampant after Vatican II. However, his most significant act as Pope is his resignation, not because of deficiency or failure, but in the wisdom and keen intuitive sense of acknowledging the need for vibrancy and activity in the person of Peter's Successor as the global representation of the contemporary vitality of the Gospel message.
In addition to the spiritual responsibilities the Pope carries, there is a vast political and social responsibility in ruling a global Church. In taking this step, with great personal humility, Benedict acknowledges the great global influence the Church needs to play in a world of increased secularization and the continued polarities between the world's poor and the world's wealthiest nations. Difficult and trying times call for drastic and revolutionary changes. Papal resignation is indeed illustrative of Benedict XVI's handing on of the weight and responsibilities of the Church's mission to the generation now coming of age to adequately and effectively apply modern principles of global integration to increase the Church's visibility on the world's diplomatic stage and indeed serve as a global voice for the increasingly impoverished peoples of the world, regardless of faith that are indeed in strong need of an infusion of religious faith through a truly global pontificate, where the Pope can serve the People of God in all corners of the world, and with fresh and dynamic perspectives only envisioned by a Pontificate enriched by the foundations of Vatican II and it's vision of the Church in the Modern World.