Tory Royalist called me up and I was told, "you're not going to believe this" and indeed it took a bit of frantic channel flipping and listening to the full statement before I accepted that this was not some sort of joke. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has announced his abdication as Supreme Pontiff, Bishop of Rome, etc, etc. Once the shock sunk in I began to wonder who might be next. The Pope announced his abdication (in Latin -how long will that last now) as being effective from the 28th day of this month, stunning the world. The only reasons given were basically age and infirmity, despite the fact that Benedict XVI is still a young man when compared to Pope Leo XIII who reigned into his 90's and he is certainly far more able than his immediate predecessor Pope John Paul II was in the final years of his papacy. The world has been stunned by this unprecedented event, coming on the heels of the abdication of HM Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands which also sparked a great deal of talk over the (possible but highly unlikely) abdication of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Not having time as yet to check the records, the only prior case of a papal abdication that comes to my mind is that of St Celestine V which happened over seven hundred years ago. There was never a rule against it (and one would be hard to enforce since the Pope can pretty much do as he pleases) but it is as close to being unprecedented as anything could be.
I wish I could be more positive about this and, believe it or not, I do try to look on the bright side of things once in a while but, so far, I really cannot see this as a good thing. Perhaps it will take a little time to see it differently. In any case, I wish the soon-to-be former Pope all the best and I hope a worthy man is chosen to take his place. One sure way to tell will be if there is a coronation or not. After all, we have been told that with Benedict XVI it was talked about but that there simply wasn't time to organize such a ceremony. Well, this time there shouldn't be any excuses. If the next pope wants one, there is no good reason why he shouldn't have one. That will tell us something about the man from the very start.