One year ago today, at the exact time this post is going live – 11:46am Rome time – Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the Office of Supreme Pontiff. Here is the video of his announcement, which he made in Latin. You can read the official translation into English here.
Even though he had spoken about the possibility of papal resignation on various prior occasions, and even had made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Pope St. Celestine V (who had resigned the papal office in 1294), the announcement caught us all very much by surprise.
For me, the papal resignation was certainly the type of historic event that one does not simply remember as a blip on one’s personal timeline; one also remembers where he was and what he was doing when it happened – sort of like the Challenger Disaster in 1986, or 9/11.
In fact, I was sitting at my desk here in Rome and checking Facebook, when I got the news from someone back home. “Fox News is reporting that Pope Benedict has resigned!” It was about noon time – i.e., about 15 minutes after it had happened. Immediately I checked a local media outlet here and, sure enough, they also were reporting it. Funny that I heard it from someone in the States first!
Most of us simply felt numb by the news. I still have very mixed emotions about it, even if, a year thence, I understand it a little better. The weeks that followed, between the February 11th announcement and the February 28th effective date of the retirement, were really quite emotional. This famous scene, from the Pope’s final Sunday Angelus Address, captured well one aspect of the emotion:
I was privileged to be able to help with the distribution of ashes at the Popes’s final public Mass, on Ash Wednesday 2013.
At that Mass there was sustained applause for the Holy Father at the very end, which Pope Benedict very graciously accepted, even though he had written so many times about how Holy Mass is no place for applause and accolades.
There is much more that could be said, and maybe I’ll say some of it over the next couple of weeks as we approach the one year anniversary of the papal resignation’s taking effect. That’s it, for now.