Benedict XVI: a man of great strength

On Feb. 11, I, along with the world, was stunned by the riveting news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning. The pope stated that his age and ailing health were the reasons for his decision to step down. Like many people, I had so many questions. What will happen to the Catholic Church now? Who will be the next pope? What will it be like to have an ex-pope?
In April 2005, then Cardinal Ratzinger, 78 years old, was elected pope, the 264th successor of Peter, and took on the name Benedict XVI afterwards. For eight years, the pope has performed his papal duties with great humility, love and dedication to his calling as the leader of the Catholic Church. He has worked tirelessly toward building bridges between religions, advocating for peace in conflict-torn areas of the world, working tirelessly to connect with the faithful in a fast-changing digital age.
Obviously, there are many critics who say that there is more to the pope resigning than the reasons he gave. Some conspiracy theories even suggest that he did not make the decision on his own accord — that he was forced to do it. Thankfully, Pope Benedict addressed this issue on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, when he spoke to his weekly audience at the Vatican, categorically stating that he made the decision to resign “in full freedom for the good of the church.”
Regardless of what people say, I believe that the pope did make this important decision after intense prayer and contemplation. I also believe that his resignation is a sign of great strength and sheds light on the kind of person he is. It takes great strength for a leader to recognize his weaknesses and realize his inability to perform the duties of his office effectively.
I also believe that his resignation is a demonstration of his love for the church, a demonstration of the true shepherd that he is. The pope did think about his flock, who have been entrusted to him. He understood that a shepherd can not protect or lead his flock if he is not a hundred percent fit.
Benedict XVI is a humble servant of the people, who has shown great strength in his resignation. He recognized the need for the Catholic Church to have a physically and mentally healthy leader to carry out the demanding tasks and responsibilities of the papacy.
So now, as the world eagerly awaits the election of the new pope, I join millions of Catholics worldwide in praying for a successful conclave, as the College of Cardinals gets ready to convene for this process.
Also, as we all wait to see the white smoke bellow from the chimney of the conclave room, and hear the declaration “Habemus Papam!” (“We have a pope!”) — which introduces the new pontiff to the world, I pray that the new successor will have the courage to lead the Catholic Church in this new era.
Yes, this is a first time for any of us alive today to witness the resignation of a pope — even though it actually happened about six centuries ago, when Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415 to end the Western Schism, after two men claimed to be pope at the same time.
Pope Benedict XVI will go down in history as not only the first German pope, but also as a modernizer and a man of great strength and humility. I wish him many blessings as he leaves his position, and rely on his prayers for the church and the world, for he is a truly courageous shepherd.

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