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Vatican Coat of Arms

Vatican Coat of Arms, in association with Art.com

Non habebimus papam.

We will not have a pope.

On the election of a new pope, it is the duty of the cardinal-deacon to make the announcement to the world, and the words Habemus papam – “We have a pope!” – echo through St. Peter’s Square and around the globe.

Today, however, this hemisphere awoke to the news that we soon will not have a pope, that Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he is resigning because “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.” He has stipulated that his resignation will take effect at 8pm (Central European Time) on Thursday, February 28, after which the See of Peter will be vacant and there must be a conclave to elect a new pope.

As canon lawyer Ed Peters points out, “The pope could change his mind (c. 331), though it is unthinkable that he would. He remains fully pope until the effective date of his resignation.”

Amidst all of the news stories and reactions, I like the reflections over at the blog Over the Rhine and Into the Tiber (more where this excerpt came from):

“So yeah, he’s a German. He’s not going to just up and leave in the dead of night, like Pope St. Celestine V. He’s going to gut it out and do damage control, and make sure all the canon law i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. He’s writing the textbook. This is how he serves God. This is how he looks after us, and after the rest of history.

“He’s a thinker, and he’s thought this out. He’s a pray-er, and he’s prayed about this. He’s obviously sure that God wants him to do this. It’s an example of leaning on the virtue of prudence, and on God’s providence and his own littleness. He’s not afraid of doing the hard things, even if it includes being called lazy or fearful by us.”

I also find Aggie Catholics’ “10 Reasons Pope Benedict’s Resignation Is a Good Thing” to be spot-on.

Finally, a personal reaction to the departure of a man who has shown himself to be truly a Holy Father: “I thought at first that she must be wrong, there could simply be no way Papa B would bow out. But as I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter, the kids clamoring for breakfast, toast burning, milk forgotten on the counter, I started to feel like one does after a swift, hard punch to the gut. Like I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand up straight, couldn’t take it in.”

We’re all reeling a bit.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a list of books for those looking for conclave reading. In the meantime, if you want a good book, you can’t go wrong with one (of the many!) written by Pope Pope Benedict XVI himself. (And – to close with a bright spot – perhaps his retirement will yield a few more!)