Catholic Religion
7:15 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict Announces Plans to Retire

A French cardinal says Pope Benedict's decision to resign is a "liberating act" for future popes.  The pontiff told a meeting of cardinals Monday that he will be resigning at the end of this month, becoming the first pope to step down in 600 years. He said the duties of being pope require "strength of mind and body," and that he simply isn't strong enough anymore.  

Richard Crane is a history professor at Greensboro College.
Richard Crane is a history professor at Greensboro College.
Credit Greensboro College

  Richard Crane, a history professor at Greensboro College, says he was surprised by the announcement, but that there have been indications that the pontiff's health - and especially his mobility - have been deteriorating.

"In his letter to the cardinals, Pope Benedict did state that he has the freedom to do this, and that he judged this to be best for the church," says Crane. "The Popes of today, particularly since Pope Paul VI in the 1960's, have been very much global figures who travel the world. There's an expectation for visibility and active engagement with the modern world that really is challenging for someone in their 80's." Benedict is 85.  His brother says doctors recently advised the Pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.

Crane says it's an exciting time to be a Catholic, in part because of the rise of new leadership, new discussions on issues within the church, and the prospect that a Pope may be elected from South America, Africa or Asia.

"By the middle of the century, only one in 5 Christians will be a white person of Europeans descent. So big things are going on. There's the past history, but history's unfolding before our eyes right now."

Crane says that despite his relatively brief tenure as Pope, Benedict was Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith under John Paul II, so he has had a major influence on the Catholic faith for more than thirty years. And Crane says not to expect a major liberalization in the Church through the succession, since all of the cardinals eligible to be the next Pope were appointed by the conservative Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II.