This morning, much to the shock of the world, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papacy (only the ninth Supreme Pontiff to ever do so). Let us begin by thanking the Pope for his wonderful 8 years of service and praying for his deteriorating health, white he cited as the reason for his retirement.
Pope Benedict believes he can no longer perform this difficult ministry, which he noted in his resignation announcement “must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.” I found this line especially striking, as few popes have been as vilified by the media, and even many within the Catholic Church, as Benedict. He has truly been an amazing witness of how to suffer well for the Lord and the Church! We thank him for his love for his flock and all his efforts to shepherd us and continue to pray for his health!
What happens next?
The conclave that will select a new pope is expected to begin meeting sometime in March, and we must begin praying! Whether we’re feeling anxiety about the Pope’s health, excitement about who might be the next Pope, or any range of emotions, hopefully we can funnel all that energy into prayer. Our cardinals will be choosing someone who will have to shepherd over 1.2 BILLION Catholics, and they need our prayers as they prepare to let the Holy Spirit guide this monumental decision! My goal is to pray this prayer every day until we have a new pope:
Prayer for the Election of a Pope
Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy grant your Church a shepherd who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
If it’s easier for you to pray something you know by heart, like an Our Father or Hail Mary, then go for it. But please, pray!
Pope Benedict’s Future
It should be noted that although Pope Benedict has resigned from the papacy, he is still a validly ordained bishop and cardinal. Though he will no longer be Bishop of Rome, his ordination still remains. One can’t resign from Holy Orders (nor does the Pope wish to), for it is a permanent seal upon one’s soul. Since the Pope is over 80 years old (85), he is not eligible to take part in the conclave that will elect his successor, but he surely has been and will be praying! May we all do the same.