As the news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI continues to sink into the whole of the Catholic world, George Weigel, the Catholic op-ed writer and official biographer of Blessed John Paul II, has said that it is a new reality in a world where people are living much longer, even as the Holy See admitted that the Holy Father has had a pacemaker for a number of years, and that he recently had a procedure to have the battery in it changed. The Catholic writer Dave Hartline has said that he thinks Benedict may have started a trend, though he was in shock yesterday like the rest of us.
However, two things should be remembered with regard to Benedict’s decision yesterday morning. The first and most important is that the Holy Father himself may have dropped the warning three years ago as part of his Light Of the World interview with journalist Peter Seewald. In that interview, His Holiness made clear that resignation is a possibility if a Pope is not able to carry on what he saw as the modern expectations of the Petrine ministry:
When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now  is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation. That is my view. One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from the danger and say that someone else should do it.
If a Pope clearly recognizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has the right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.
Benedict floated the idea three years ago that what we are all watching from a distance might be a possibility for him, but as usual, the world failed to listen and went on about its merry way. The Pope, likely in the best way that he knew how, was even then trying to gently break it to his flock that unlike most of his predecessors, he might be discerning that while he has been called to be the Supreme Pastor of the universal Church, he may not be called to maintain that very unique ministry until the day God calls him out of this world. Like all of us who are discerning a vocation, the Holy Father had to pray and discern whether God was calling him to leave Peter’s Chair, and whether he was going to heed that call.
As a man of prayer, it should not come as a surprise that this great theologian wants to spend the rest of his days in reflection and prayer to the God to whom he has so faithfully emptied himself in service. He came to wear the ring of the Fisherman in humility and in the shadow of a gentle and saintly giant. He will have his ring destroyed on the 28th of this month with the same humility, quietly living in quarters established for him in Mater Ecclasiae Monastery in the Vatican. He won’t be cloistered, so he’ll be able to continue to preach, write and minister under the authority of his successor as long as he is physically able. Benedict is preaching to all of us through his actions about what it means to be humble.
As a matter of purely personal opinion, I hope that some of the pundits aren’t right, and that the Holy Father won’t be the first of many to resign. I still believe that the essential charism of the Petrine ministry requires that most of the men who fill that special role should hold it for the remainder of their life. What most of the media don’t seem to understand, however, is that neither I nor they are in charge. The Holy Spirit is guiding the Church, as he has done for over 2,000 years. If the Holy Spirit is doing something different, who are we to stand in his way?