Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Americans think our presidents have the toughest job in the world. But is that right? On the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, Pope Benedict XVI recently announced his resignation effective Feb. 28, explaining that his age and health preclude it. The media reported this as a historical event. Why? Popes serve for life. Presidents serve eight years, if re-elected. By law, there is a transition for the president, if incapacitated, to hand over the reins of governance to the vice president. Not popes. At 78 years old, he might be considered too old for the presidency. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope at 78.
The current president leads 315 million Americans. Pope Benedict XVI leads more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide. The president has to unite divided factions in two major parties in one country. The pope has to unite factions from all over the world with different governments, cultures, customs and people. As the vicar of Christ on Earth, and the successor to St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI can’t submit his resignation to God.
As a holy man in his own right, Pope Benedict XVI lived in the shadow of one of the holiest men of our times: Blessed Pope John Paul II, sometimes called “the Great.” In a single act of human frailty, Pope Benedict XVI showed us his greatness.