We all knew that the asteroid labeled DA 14 would come close to earth as it passed by at 27,700 kilometres above the earth in mid-February. About the same time, Pope Benedict, almost like a bolt from the blue, announced his resignation, effective February 28th, 2013. Some amongst the population might try to make a connection between these two happenings – to do so would be silly, however we could see one event coming, but not the other!!

Much has been written and spoken about the Pope’s resignation, but we ought not to be surprised. He had been exhibiting signs of slowing down for the last twelve months or so. For instance, Christmas Midnight Mass at St Peter’s Basilica was bought forward to 10.00pm; he was not easily able to walk up the aisle of St Peter’s unaided, hence the mobile platform he used.

I applaud his courage and wisdom in resigning, leadership is not something we ought to grimly hold on to. After all, the Pope is the “Servant of the Servants of God”. At 86 years of age, he deserves some years of quiet retirement since he has served his God very well over a life time. Today’s world population is looking for leadership and inspiration amidst the challenges humanity faces. Spiritual leadership is mediated through humans. Pope Benedict is an astute man, deeply spiritual, both an academic and a realist. Several of his encyclicals, particularly the ones on faith and hope demonstrated he understood the big picture influences affecting people’s lives.

For the future, whoever becomes the next Pope when the Conclave commences in mid-March, may not be from the pundits’ lists. As Christian theology points out, God is often the God of surprises. The Christian faith is a faith not a science, and mystery plays its part. Therefore a surprise candidate may be elected.

The voting cardinals know that the Catholic Church’s 1.2 billion adherents are in very large numbers in Latin America, Asia and Africa, as well as in the New World, rather than from Europe. It would be refreshing to have someone from outside of Europe.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, is a man I greatly admire for his ability to relate to all, from dustmen through to presidents. He is in touch with people’s lives and is quite inspirational – you never know what the Holy Spirit might have in mind!!

Whoever is elected, the Catholic world and the world generally will rally around him. In the very secular western world, the Papacy is still something of an enigma! For Catholics, however, the Pope is Christ’s representative on earth which is wonderful and extraordinary, and a source of hope for us all!

Patrick J. Lynch