February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI’s Final Lesson

News of the Pope’s resignation will surprise and sadden many. But it offers a witness to the world and a reminder to us what leadership in the Church is all about: humble, courageous, and selfless service to the People of God. The Pope has taken this dramatic decision, as he said, in “full freedom” the freedom that comes with humility and the loving concern of a true Pastor.

It is worth reflecting on his own words:

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter …

As we pray for Pope Benedict and the Church in this period of transition, trusting in the Holy Spirit, we recall the words of Jesus at the Last Supper:

“So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” John 13: 12-16

May each of us to whom a ministry in the Church has been entrusted, follow our Pope’s example of leadership as humble, selfless service of our brothers and sisters in Christ.