One year ago today, Pope Benedict XVI announced he would resign as Pope, something that hadn’t happened in centuries.
It was a courageous act. His health had suffered greatly during his papacy and he felt that he could no longer adequately serve the church.
I was the exception: almost everyone I knew thought the conclave would elect a pope who would lead with the same agendas as Benedict and Blessed John Paul II. They saw a church that would continue to see purity of orthodoxy over the inclusion that Jesus sought. A church that saw itself as under siege by forces that wanted its destruction. They thought this because all 115 of the Cardinals in the conclave were appointed by either John Paul or Benedict.
I gave more credit to the Holy Spirit. I was reminded that Blessed John XXVIII was appointed Cardinal by Pius XII. He came out of nowhere and made more progress in the 20th Century than anyone expected. I prayed for another successor like John.
On March 13th we learned of the election of someone we’d never heard of: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. We learned that he is of Italian descent, but was from Argentina. We learned quickly that change was in the wind. A Jesuit, he chose (for the first time) to be called the name of St. Francis, a medieval saint who embraced poverty as a way of holiness. Then he took the bus back to his hotel and paid the bill.
In the 11 months since his election many of us liberal Catholics have rejoiced in him. He is humble, kind, and loving. Maybe we should take this for granted in a Pope, but it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to.