These are very interesting times, or as Ferris Bueller said: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Today, the world learned that for the first time in over 700 years, the Pope is resigning. Folks, let me just say, this is HUGE! I mean, this is so HUGE that I'm at a loss to find a HUGE-enough comparison. (No, it is not sacrilegious to have an image of Ferris Bueller before the Pope...GEEZ!)
OK, let me back up. Whether you are a Catholic or not, it is pretty much common knowledge that when a Pope is elected, he is elected to a "life-term;" at least, that's the way it's been done for about 2000 years (OK, there have been a couple of previous exceptions to this, but they have been extremely rare). As most of you know, the Pope is elected by a group of "elector cardinals." (This could get a bit detailed, you may want to take a quick break to grab a beverage, I know I just did...).
Cardinals are actually "Pope-appointed bishops" (Compare this to Supreme Court justices: judges, appointed by the President). The "elector cardinals" must be <80, of sound mind and able to make the trip to Rome for the Pope selection/election. These Cardinals are locked into the Sistine Chapel, (The Chapel is amazingly beautiful. Even though it is most famous for the mural painted on the ceiling, all of the walls are painted with murals as well; with all of the images to look at, I'd be too distracted to pay attention to anything else that was going on...just saying!), while they deliberate, nominate, debate etc. before electing the new Pope.
OK, here's something you might not know...the Pope need not be a Cardinal, a bishop, nor even a priest. Under Canon law, any Catholic man in good standing, could be elected Pope. Yeah, well, good luck with that. Since the mid-1500's the Pope has been selected from among the Cardinals. (Let's face it, Catholic priests probably invented "the good 'ole boy" thing...HA!) I think most of you are familiar with the notification process, once the Pope has been selected and elected, (it all goes up in smoke), so I'll stop here.
As a "cradle-to-grave" Catholic, I'm going to confess that I have a really hard time with many of the Catholic church's teachings and doctrines. In particular, (those of you who know me well will not be surprised), I have the hardest time with the Church's "no women allowed" policy with regard to women priests. I also find the priesthood celibacy issue ridiculous as well as the issues of birth control, and the anti-gay stand. I don't think I am in the minority on these issues but let me get back to the Pope's resignation...
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany was elected Pope on April 19, 2005 (after his predecessor, Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005.) His "Pope-name" is Benedict XVI. He announced today that he will resign, effective February 28, 2013. He says that he "no longer has the physical and mental strength" to do the job. To this I say, GOOD FOR YOU! I think it is important for all of us to know when to say when. Prior to my retirement, I often heard it said of "old-timers" that "they should have retired years ago." Meaning, that the person had lost their effectiveness or their ability to effectively perform the tasks and functions of their job. I can not fathom the amount of physical and mental strength and stamina it takes to serve as the "Spiritual Leader" for over 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide. The Pope is in his 80s, good for him for recognizing his inability to effectively serve. For me, and I believe for most Catholics, our faith is not rooted in any one particular person, rather, it is ingrained into the fibers of our beings. Whether we regularly attend mass or not or whether we even find ourselves attending religious services at other Christian churches, we are a people of faith. We love our Father and his Son and his Spirit. We attempt to live our lives based on the Ten Commandments (and when we fail, as we do, we try to do better the next time). The Church will weather this issue and I sincerely pray that the next Pope will be up to the challenge.