Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI had a reign of nearly eight years, from April 19, 2005 to February 28, 2013. His sudden resignation shook the church to its base, and the significance of the action remains a major topic of debate, some approving it as a courageous decision by the Pope, of stepping down when he felt he could no longer carry the cross. Others see it as a sign of the weakening of the church, that the vicar of christ should carry the cross till the end and his inability is a bad sign.

Many popes over the years, including his predecessor, stayed on in spite of failing health and other reasons because they believed “You cannot come down from the cross”. At the same time, Pope Benedict XVI is not the first to step down. The oldest recorded papal resignation was by St Pontian in A.D. 235, having been exiled by Roman authorities, the last but one being Gregory XII Who reigned to end the western Schism.

Before his election as Pope, Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was nicknamed ‘God’s rotweiler’ for his uncompromising conservative views - clashing with homosexuals, feminists and even rock musicians. Even after his elections he became a protector of the teachings of the church: he held a firm opposition to tolerence of homosexuality, the ordaining of women as priests and abortion. The church added 7 modern mortal sins during his reign, including excessive wealth and environmental damage.

He made a histroric visit to the Blue Mosque in November 2006 and prayed with its Muslim leader. He also paid homage to the victims of the Holocaust at a memorial in Austria in 2007. He also paid a major visit to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Yet his reign had its own share of scandals, with the issue of child abuse by members of the church. Cases to this effect often languished unattended for years, even decades with victims as young as three years of age. On september 12, 2006, in a lecture on faith at a university in Germany, the pope quoted a 14th centry Byzantine Emporer who describes the teachings of prophet Muhammed as ‘evil’ and ‘inhuman’. An embarrassing leak of documents from the Pope’s desk revealing corruption and mismanagement inside the Vatican led to the conviction of his butler in 2012. The affair gave a damaging impression of a power struggle at the Holy See. Even with his stern position against homosexual tolerence, eight countries legalized gay marriage during his reign.

On the whole we see a reign filled with controversy and scandal, with supporters saying that Pope benedict XVI made great efforts in bringing together different faiths and eradicating child abuse in the church. At the same time opposition roars that the Pope has damaged relations with Muslims and Jews, and has obstructed much needed change in the church.

Considering his age and the mountain of difficulties the pope has to tackle, you would not consider his resignation a sin from a humane view. Yet what it means for the future and existence of the church itself is yet to be seen.

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