You may have faith or not. You may be religious or not. You may follow the church precepts or not, it does not matter. The announcement of the Pope’s resignation as of 28. February is something that will be in the history books for many years (centuries) to come. Growing up in Italy you just see that the Pope is elected in that large gatherings called conclaves that takes place only now and then in the Vatican. People standing in S. Peter Square waiting for the smoke to come out from a small chimney on one of the roofs nearby the cathedral. Is it black? No Pope yet. Is it white? Habemus papam. Popes then last long. They cannot retire. They just do not do it. I have memories of Pope John Paul I. He wanted to change how the church but died few months after being elected Pope which led to all possible conspiracies theories at that time. He did not live long as Pope, but did not retire either. The resignation of Benedict XVI made me think about few of things related to courage, dignity as well as Italian politics. A very conservative (too conservative Pope) who was unable to shake and change the church during his relatively short papacy gave a shake that resembles a huge earthquake. All the internal political and power battles which in the end mater and influence way beyond the borders of the Vatican are temporarily put to rest as the whole hierarchy that was established following his election and which he was able to control is now threatened. It showed to me that the ultimate weapon the Pope had to change things was to leave. This is at the same time a sign of great weakness. But more importantly, here we have a man who recognizes this weaknesses and leaves. Something very few people with power are able or willing to do (at least in Italy). He simply told to his followers: ‘I cannot do this anymore, please forgive me.’ Some commentators in the Italian newspapers said that this is the moment when modernity entered the church or, maybe, the moment that brings the church into the age of modernity. Hopefully so, given the influence that the church has, particularly in south of the world. Hopefully there will be now an African or Asian Pope. Hopefully women will not have the same rights as men within the church. What cannot be denied is that from now on for the followers of the Catholic Church the Pope is just a man who can also leave when he cannot do his job anymore. The decision taken by Benedict XVI fell two weeks from a national election in Italy and during a ugly election campaign made mainly by insults, demagogy, and promises that cannot be kept (n.b. the total of all the fiscal promises (mainly to reduce taxes or abolish taxes) made by all parties running in the election would cost Italy state 180bl, in other words promises that belong to Disneyworld). To me the decision of the Pope, who in a way admits that he had failed and feels that he his too old to carry on, is a decision which, in my opinion, shows great courage and dignity. Dignity that really reduces the election campaign and the politicians who are running it to something really small and trivial. It also changes completely election campaign plans and strategies as the unthinkable has now happened and will influence people political preferences. It is thought that the decision by the Pope will benefit the center parties led by Mario Monti as well as the moderate left led by Bersani. It obscures the campaign of Berlusconi who is not well seen in the Vatican (for obvious reasons) and who needs to appear has much as possible in TV and the news in order to close the gap that separates his party from the centre-left. We shall see.
The resignation of the Pope, courage and Italian politics