19 February 2013

Nigeria: As Pope Benedict Steps Down...

Pope Benedict's courageous decision to step down is a lesson in leadership

As Pope Benedict XV1 steps down from his exalted office after eight luminous years, we join all Catholics around the world in wishing the 86-year old pontiff the best in his retirement.

In his letter of resignation pursuant to the provisions of Article 332 (2) of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church, the Pope stated that after examining his conscience before God, he had come to the conclusion that his strength, which is so necessary to perform the functions of his office and the proclamation of the Gospel in this changing world, has been failing him in recent months. Consequently Pope Benedict graciously, and we must say, courageously decided to abdicate the throne of Saint Peter and the enormous responsibility it carries for the world's 1.5 Billion Catholics with effect fromFebruary 28, 2013.

In an age in which manyleaders would do everything, including re-writing the constitution, to cling to power, Pope Benedict's voluntary decision to step down in deference to his failing health, is profoundly edifying and a big lesson to all in leadership positions. We salute his magnanimity and humility in reaching a decision that could not have been easy for him or the Catholic Church. And let's make no mistake about it, there is much power in running a global congregation that is only comparable to China in population.

The process for the election of a new Pope is expected to begin as early as March1, 2013. But in making this momentous choice, which we understand is a spiritually-guided rather than politically-influenced one, we would like to urge the Cardinal-electors to elect a Pope with the strength, clarity of mind, tireless ecumenical drive and apostolic zeal which the papacy needs in the challenging years ahead. In all circumstances we would urge Pope Benedict's successor to emulate his unflinching selfless love for humanity and sympathy for the poor and the less privileged. Pope Benedict placed love at the centre of his papacy and that will be one of the defining legacies of his pontificate.

Unknown to many, he has already authorised the use of his organs after his death for those who need them to stay alive. According to the Pope, "to offer, spontaneously, parts of one's body for someone who needs them is an act of great love". In his first Encyclical, the periodic Letter in which a Catholic Pontiff states his views on any given subject, titled Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) he extensively treats the different aspects of love. He ends up explaining why all forms of love should find their root in the real love of God. Another enthralling Encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), Benedict advocates the promotion of human development, democratic culture and ethical standards in banking, financial institutions and others. The Encyclical covers themes such as integral human development in our time, ethical considerations of the world economic crisis, notion of rights and duties in development, dignity of the human person and demand for justice and the search for lasting peace in the world. These are values that should be embraced not just by his successor but leaders across the world.

Born on April 16, 1927, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean, College of Cardinals. Benedict was elected Pope on April 19, 2005 at the age of 78, thus making him the oldest person to be elected Pope in 300 years. He is also the first Pope to have resigned in about 600 years while his 22 books include the bestseller, Jesus of Nazareth. With such a track record of distinguished intellectualism, and apostleship in his lifetime of service to God and humanity, Pope Benedict XVI deserves peace in his retirement. We could not wish him anything less.

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