Isn't the Da Vinci File view of the Pope's abdication/resignation/renunciation (can we agree on a Catholic word?) being touted by the European media (at least) wonderful? The best they can do is pretend it's the same as a Prime Minister resigning unexpectedly (think Harold Wilson in 1976 if you want to get the bathos) and then try to interpret what is happening as though it was politics as usual. I hope somebody is keeping a file of howlers.
But here are some observations.
- The Pope told us what he was thinking of: his visits to the tomb of Celestine V, his clear statement in the Hahn interview: he signalled clearly what was in his mind and none of us - main stream media, bloggers, specialists, amateurs - noticed.
- The Pope has not done this capriciously or selfishly: whatever the details of the state of his health - how strong he is, how quickly he expects to lose his strength, whether his mental health will hold up - this very holy man has taken a decision after a long period of prayer and discernment and we can be confident that he knows what he is doing.
- What's coming might be Don Bosco's vision ( I thought Anita Moore had that spot on here), might be a particularly Benedictine vision, or might be something the Pope (as well informed as any Head of State) has inferred: he knows he is not the man to meet the challenge.
- His decision was taken some time ago: he told his brother six months ago, but he started dropping in on Celestine V rather longer ago. It's not unreasonabale to suppose that everything he has done in the last two or three years has been done with his leaving in mind, and with his leaving everything in as good a condition as possible for his successor.
- All of this makes his decisions about whom to elevate to Cardinal very interesting indeed. The electors will comprise those who voted for him, a small number of those who didn't, and those whom he has elevated.
- He has looked after Archbishop Gaenswein: not just by consecrating him Archbishop. He would have probably been made a Bishop in Germany after the Pope's death if tradition were followed, but he has been consecrated as an Archbishop and raised to Prefect of the Pope's Household. In itself, this is a rebuke to the Curia and a public message that Vatileaks wasn't his Secretary's fault. (And the secrecy which has been maintained in this affair is another signal that the Curia was bypassed.)
- Most importantly, perhaps, with the publication of the third volume of his work on Jesus the Pope has completed the teaching part of his ministry.
My initial reaction - that he should have stayed on to death - is being replaced by an appreciation that Pope Benedict probably has a rather better idea of what he should do than me. We have had eight years - eight game-changing years - from a Pope who couldn't have been expected to last anything like this long. We are seeing the supernatural eddying into the natural world through his decision.
And last of all, he has given us Lent to prepare, so that we can celebrate at Easter.