Certainly, today's news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation comes as a surprise to faithful Catholic's worldwide, but not as a shock. For the Pope himself previously stated that if his body were to become a burden in fulfilling his Petrine responsibilities, he would step down. So effective February 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI will officially step down.
Pope to step down: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-benedict-xvi-to-step-down-feb.-28/
So what does this mean apart from speculation, politicization and myth?
First, and foremost, historically, this is not the first time a Pope has stepped down. To name but a few, Pope St. Pontian, Pope St. Celestine V, Pope Benedict IX, and most recently Pope Gregory XII, in 1415, are past Pope's who have resigned for one reason or another. So, the Church has 'been there and done that.'
Secondly, in no way is this tied with a personal moral scandal involving Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger himself. This is, rather, a supreme act of humility. As a Cardinal on a Vatican website stated, 'This is typical Benedict...prayer, thought...and action!' We must remember that Pope Benedict XVI, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, witnessed two previous Pope's physical deterioration, in Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, and weighed the necessity of vitality for the sacred ministry of the successor of St. Peter in a technologically rapid-fire world. The Pope, moreover, may have hinted of this move back in 2009 when he celebrated the 900th anniversary of Pope St. Celestine, who also resigned. We must also take into consideration the personal makeup of this man. In contrast to Pope John Paul II's robust physical nature, in his early years, and his outgoing personality, Pope Benedict XVI was more of a private, introspective and scholarly man, a man who accepted his Pontificate reluctantly, yet faithfully.
Cardinal Dolan speaks of Benedict the Pope and Joseph the man: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/cardinal-dolan-benedicts-papacy-highlighted-his-pastoral-scholarly-holy-lif/
Let the popular and progressive speculation begin! No sooner have the words of resignation flown from the mouth of the Pope than the progressives have begun to spin and speculate on a 'progressive pope!' Two words of advice for faithful Catholics: 1) The Pope has been busy in foresight of his weakening health; he has been preparing a traditional and faithful body of Cardinals of which the next Pope will be selected. Besides, its really the Holy Spirit's job, and the last I've heard, the Spirit of God is neither solely progressive nor conservative! 2) Therefore, it would be wise to steer clear of the American main-stream-media for further developments! March 1st will bring a new Pope, and the Church moves not by popular sentiment, but by centuries of Tradition faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. EWTN, Zenit, or National Catholic Register would be a better source of movements within the Church.
Finally, this being such an unprecedented move--considering the last Pope resigned over 500 years ago--what role does Benedict XVI play as former Pope among us? Certainly his prayers will be a powerful force for the selection of the next Pope, not to mention his living presence within the Church. So within the speculation we will most certainly hear about a progressive Pope, or a hispanic, black, or asian pope, we should only pray for a faithful Pope.
For progressivism, secularism, and politics aside, the Papacy is about the presence of the Vicar of Christ in the world. Above all, it is about the unchanging Catholic Tradition of faith, hope and Love, truly present, and relevant for all times, within the Living Body of Jesus Christ our Lord.