No one expects the pope’s resignation! His chief weapon was surprise.
First time in 600 years that has happened. We didn’t know they were allowed to do that.
As news reports have pointed out, the first pontiff to abdicate was Celestine V in 1294. (They’ve also noted that Benedict visited Celestine’s tomb twice.) He was succeeded by Boniface VIII. Boniface then had him imprisoned, which was rather rude. Dante Alighieri loathed Boniface and hated Celestine for paving the way for his papacy. So Celestine got a cameo in the Inferno, where Dante consigned all his political enemies:
When some among them I had recognised,
I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal.
(Inferno Canto III)
Vatican history is fascinating, with its schisms, scandals and Crusades, Borgia and Medici, its apocryphal Pope Joan, Inquisition, its political dealings, its financial holdings, its beyond-spectacular art collection. Interesting how this pope is abdicating for medical reasons when his predecessor died in office after a long illness. We kind of like (can’t bring ourselves to like outright) how he acknowledged the need for “strength of mind”—making thinking as important as suffering. Under the circumstances, that’s almost liberal.
* * * * *
Two friends begin their illustrious careers at the same time, their paths diverge, one turns into Vader and the other tries to overthrow him.
Star Wars, or Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Küng?