Deciding to resign several weeks ago, Pope Benedict made a move that Foreign Policy states is a demonstration “of self-knowledge that is incredibly rare among leaders.” FP’s humorous jibe aside, the points they make regarding the multitude of leaders that “over-stay” their welcome and are unable to govern well due to the effects of age as well as effects of having so much power have a ton of relevance to today’s international politics (let’s not name any names, cough*Putin*cough).
Nevertheless, Pope Benedict’s move signals the beginning of definite changes that will take place in the Catholic Church. During Pope Benedict’s last St. Peter’s Square message this week, he said that the Catholic Church has swam into “stormy waters.” Whoever his successor will be has to tackle the litany of issues that have been brought to the forefront in the past few years including decreased membership in Europe and North America, corruption and most notably the various sex scandals that have surfaced. Church membership demographics are changing rapidly with membership increasing in Latin America and Africa, something that the church will have to increasingly acknowledge along with the changing, more “socially liberal” ideas in the United States regarding gay marriage and abortion.
While Delia Gallagher, senior editor of Inside the Vatican magazine says that there is a “renewed sense of excitement at the Vatican,” how long this excitement will truly last remains to be seen. A more accurate emotion that Vatican insiders and Catholics alike should feel is fear because it will take a strong (perhaps in every sense of that word), charismatic leader to swim the Catholic Church ashore.