Pope Benedict XVI surprised Catholics around the world with his resignation Monday, when he became the first Pope in almost 600 years to resign. The fact that there had been no reports of ill health or other issues that might have given a hint of the resignation shocked church observers, including the head of the Catholic Press Association of the United States.
In an interview with Newsmax TV, Greg Erlandson, who also blogs on Catholic culture for Newsmax.com, said he had only recently spoken to individuals who had seen the Pope in recent weeks and reported his condition to be “stronger.”
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“I was surprised. At the same time, there’s no denying that he is 85 years old and the idea of being, in essence, a kind of CEO for a billion-member church, is daunting for someone 20 years younger than him,” Erlandson said. “He has talked about the possibility of resignation, at least in a theoretical manner, in the past. So it’s not, in that sense, a complete surprise, but still surprising.”
Pope Benedict’s resignation is in contrast to the tenure of Pope John Paul II, who continued saying Mass until the last days of his life, despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Erlandson said it’s difficult to speculate why Pope Benedict opted to resign.
“There may be parts of the story we still haven’t gotten. He may simply have felt that, given all the challenges that are facing the church and the demands of his job, that he wasn’t physically up to it,” Erlandson said. “He did see John Paul too in his last days and his last years and seemed to have expressed some concerns about that.”
Erlandson said no matter what the Pope’s reason for resigning, it was likely a very tough decision.
“He’s German and has a strong sense of duty. I can only imagine that this must have been a very difficult decision for him. He talks about how he spent so much time in prayer about it and I’m sure it must have been a soul-searching examination for him,” Erlandson said. “Was he walking away from his duty or was he doing what was best for the church?”
Erlandson said that despite speculation, he believes Benedict’s successor will be European. Cardinal (Angelo) Scolo of Milan is a name that you’ll be hearing,” he said.
Of those from outside Europe, he said the names of Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga will be mentioned.
“Of course there will be speculation about an African, speculation about a Latin American. But this is an interesting time because the cardinals have not spent a lot of time together in this pontificate. They have not gathered together for extended periods of time.”
“But I still think that it will most likely be a European, possibly Latin American.”
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