“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”
I, for one, salute him for his dedication to his ministry, and the courage and humility that it took to do this. It’s an extremely demanding job, but it’s also a very high-profile one, and as such it must be difficult to keep viewing it as an act of love and service. But as in all things, not through our own strength.
He is the 265th person to hold the position, and the first of the Internet Age. Among the virtues that he brought to the office were a keen academic mind and intellectual rigour. In particular, his rejection of relativism is insightful:
“Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of education is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognising nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego.”
He has also masterfully combined a commitment to orthodox Christianity with an emphasis on “friendship with Jesus”:
“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? … No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation… When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”
Ave atque vale, Benedictus XVI.