Pope Benedict has become the first pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to resign. Gregory left the papacy in order to facilitate a resolution to the Western Schism, in which two men- one in Avignon, France and the other in Rome- claimed to be pope.
Resignation, rather than abdication, is the technically correct term, being the English equivalent of the Latin word used by canon law.
Pope Benedict's health has been in decline, and physicians had advised him not to make any more trans-Atlantic trips. He has also had increased difficulty in walking.
Pope Benedict has been an eloquent spokesman for the Faith Once Delivered in the face of the modern apostasy, and has facilitated improved relationships between Catholics and Lutherans (being German, his acquaintance with Lutheran theology is greater than that of most Catholic prelates). He will be missed.
The present composition of the College of Cardinals virtually guarantees the election of another conservative.
Paddy Power, the Irish betting site, gives 2-1 odds that the conclave will last only one day.
The Paddy Power favorites, with the odds for each:
5/2 Marc Cardinal OuelletThe charismatic Cardinal Ouellet is the French-Canadian Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, a friend of Pope Benedict, has served in Latin America, and is thought to be exceptionally well acquainted with the condition of the church. The conclave will doubtless want to elect a younger man; at 64, Cardinal Ouellet almost borders on being too young.
7/2 Peter Cardinal Turkson
7/2 Francis Cardinal Arinze
8/1 Angelo Cardinal Scola
Cardinals Turkson of Ghana and Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria are both, of course, black. Cardinal Turkson, 66, is the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Arinze- a convert from an African tribal religion- is Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He briefly moved ahead of Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope Benedict VI, in the odds before the previous conclave. But his age- 81- will work against him. In any event, a pope from Africa- where Christianity is a growing, thriving religion unaffected by the timidity that tends to affect Western Christians used to being marginalized by a secular culture, would be an interesting and, I suspect, extremely positive development. I can imagine the excommunication of a number of pro-abortion and pro-gay "marriage" American Catholic politicians.
I have a gut feeling, though, that it will be Cardinal Scola, who at 71 is pretty much the right age. Besides, three non-Italian popes in a row might be a bit much even in this modern age. Ambrose- the name of the patron saint of Milan, whose archbishop Cardinal Scola is- would be an interesting choice of a name for the present moment in history; it was Ambrose whose preaching converted the Manichean-minded Augustine of Hippo.
While I have some doubts about Peter being listed as the number one choice, here are Paddy Power's odds for the name of the next pope
The favorite is "Peter, " at even odds.
Odd- except for one thing: the prophesy of St. Malachy predicts that the final pope- in a chronology which seems to make that pope Benedict's successor- will be named Peter. In Catholic tradition and dogma the Apostle Peter is supposed to have been the first pope. But it for that every reason, it strikes me that it would take a pretty big ego to choose that name- unless, of course, the new pope is Peter Cardinal Turkson. Pius, John, or John Paul would seem to me to be better bets if someone else is chosen.
Pope Benedict's resignation takes effect at the end of the month. Presumably the conclave to select his successor will be held shortly thereafter.
Photo of Cardinal Ouellet by Magnus Manske.
Photo of Cardinal Turkson by Bongoman.