Catholics around the world are wondering why Pope Benedict XVI would resign from the papacy instead of dying in office like most of his predecessors. My first reaction was that he was setting an example for future popes. I found an article from a Catholic writer who also feels that way.
Toward the end of his papacy, there were suggestions that Pope John Paul II should resign because of his failing health. Instead, John Paul used the world stage to illustrate the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. Benedict can now add to John Paul’s important lesson by showing that it is also acceptable to step off the stage when the time is right. If he weren’t pope, Benedict would have already retired. The mandatory retirement age for bishops is 75. Cardinals over 80 cannot vote for the next pope.
Justin Cardinal Rigali was Archbishop of Philadelphia until he retired and moved to Knoxville. He will turn 78 in April, which means that he will travel to Rome for the conclave to elect the next pope. He and Bishop Richard Stika spoke to the press yesterday at the Chancery.