When and if the new pope elect happens to be Italian, those who follow Bible prophecy have a reason to be concerned — and it does seem likely.
Benedict XVI, in short, knew what could happen to one who rebelled against a centuries-old tradition in a church in which suffering is far from foreign. But he also knew that it wasn’t just a matter of his own suffering — it was a matter of the exhaustion, weakness and sickness of the church at large.
The pope from Bavaria has given up. Nevertheless, when he announced his resignation last Monday, hastily and almost casually mumbling the words as if he were saying a rosary, as if he were returning the keys to a rental car rather than the keys to St. Peter, there was still a sense of how deeply his move has shaken the Catholic empire.
Archbishop of Berlin Rainer Maria Woelki calls it a “demystification of the papal office.” Already, he says, the pope’s resignation has changed the church.
A shift is taking place in the otherwise immovable Catholic Church. A global struggle has begun over the prerogative of interpretation, opportunities, legacy and positions — a silent battle for Rome.
The ultimate effects of the pope’s resignation are thus far impossible to predict. But it is clear that previous certainties will now be up for debate — certainties that were once just as firm as the understanding that the position of pope was for life.
In the modern age, a pope has never resigned from the office, one that some believe is the most important on earth. There hasn’t been an ex-pontiff since the last years of the Schism, after Gregory XII and the Avignon pope agreed to resign to reunite the church. That was the last time that an ex-pope spent the rest of his days strolling around the Vatican gardens as nothing but a simple brother. Never before has the decision of a single pope presented such a challenge to the Catholic Church as this one. Zero hour has begun at the Vatican. The pope’s resignation was certainly “great” within Dante’s meaning. But it was not made through cowardice. On the contrary, it was probably the most courageous step in a long-drifting papacy marred by scandals and misunderstandings.
With his revolt against tradition and the church machinery, Benedict XVI may have brought more change to the church than he did in the seven years and 10 months of his papal reign.
It needs a contemporary crisis manager, someone who can master the conflicts within the church with a strong hand, and can weather or, better yet, avoid scandals. He should be just as intellectually gifted as Ratzinger, as spiritually steadfast as Jesus Christ, as charismatic as Karol Wojtyla and, of course, just as young. Wojtyla was 58 when he was elected. In a nutshell, the church is seeking a mediator, a cleanup man and a tough man, and yet someone is nevertheless tender in his faith.
What it’s seeking is a miracle.
The Vaticanisti agree that, given this job description, none of the six German cardinals (Paul Josef Cordes, Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann, Reinhard Marx, Joachim Meisner, Rainer Maria Woelki) is a possibility. If the new pope is to be a European, he will most likely be an Italian.
Full article: Zero Hour at the Vatican: A Bitter Struggle for Control of the Catholic Church (Spiegel Online)